Via The Wall Street Journal, Syrians Used Chemical Weapons Against Rebels: U.S. Officials

The U.S. has concluded that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war with rebels, U.S. officials said, a determination that could lay the ground for a decision by the U.S. to arm the rebels and take other steps expanding American involvement in the conflict.

The finding comes nearly two months after the White House informed Congress that U.S. intelligence agencies believed with “varying degrees of confidence” that Mr. Assad has used chemical weapons, likely including sarin gas. President Barack Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons by Mr. Assad would cross a “red line” for the U.S.

A senior U.S. official said the determination could be used by the White House to sign off on a proposal to arm moderate Syrian rebels and other measures now under consideration.

CNN, White House: Syria crosses ‘red line’ with use of chemical weapons on its people:

The White House acknowledged Thursday the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale a number of times, according to a statement.

The administration also indicated it will increase the “scope and scale of assistance” to rebels in Syria following its acknowledgment that the Bashar al-Assad government has used chemical weapons in the civil war, according to the statement.

Time, Red Line Crossed: U.S. Officials Confirm Syrian Chemical Weapons Use:

The development, announced Thursday by White House Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, puts the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over President Barack Obama’s “red line” announced in August 2012 promising severe consequences for the use of chemical weapons.

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” Obama said at the time. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Given that this announcement comes on the heels of major Syrian-Hezbollah-Iranian gains, including retaking the city of Qusayr, expect claims that this is a pretext to arm the rebels.

Update: Prelude to war? Remember, it’s Bad or worse in Syria: