December 13, 2013
Obama faces growing calls to act over Syria gas attack allegations
US President Barack Obama faced growing calls at home and abroad for forceful action against the Syrian government over accusations it carried out a massive new deadly chemical weapons attack.
While the White House said it was "appalled" by reports of hundreds of people gassed on Wednesday, it made clear any US response would await confirmation of a chemical attack and again demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad give UN inspectors immediate access to the site near Damascus.
The Obama administration's cautious response underscored a deep reluctance by Washington to intervene in Syria since the country's civil war erupted 2 1/2 years ago.
But reflecting the pressures Obama could face in coming days, a US official familiar with initial intelligence assessments said the attack appeared to be the deliberate work of the Assad government. It was "the regime acting as a regime," the official said.
If allegations of a large-scale chemical attack are verified - Syria's government has denied them - Obama will surely face calls to act more aggressively, possibly even with military force, in retaliation for repeated violations of US "red lines."
Obama's failure to confront Assad with the serious consequences he has long threatened would reinforce a global perception of a president preoccupied with domestic matters and unwilling to act decisively in the volatile Middle East, a picture already set by his mixed response to the crisis in Egypt.
The consensus in Washington and allied capitals is that a concerted international response can only succeed if the United States takes the lead.
Despite that, pressure was mounting as horrific photos and videos of alleged chemical weapons victims spread across the Internet.