Seeking to clarify his “red line” position on the Syrian government’s possible use of chemical weapons, President Obama said Tuesday that he would consider a “range of options,” but he also urged patience.

Chemical weapons were used, Obama said, but, “we don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them.” The president had previously suggested that the use of chemical weapons might trigger greater U.S. involvement in Syria’s 3-year-old civil war, which has caused the death of an estimated 70,000 people.

The L.A. Times, citing sources in the administration, reports that retaliatory measures might include shipments of weapons and supplies (such as night-vision goggles) to rebels, or even U.S. military action. Neither the president nor his leakers would commit to any specific plan and it’s clear from Obama’s briefing that the White House wants more time to assess the situation.

The president stressed the importance of international partners in his remarks Tuesday, framing the use of chemical weapons as a problem for the international community, and not just the United States. Obama also said rushing to judgment could cost the support of regional allies.

Although the current president’s rhetoric is vastly more measured, talk of a Baath Party government using weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for military action is eerily reminiscent of George W. Bush’s PR campaign on behalf of the Iraq War.

It’s not entirely clear what Obama wants. The charge of chemical weapons, after all, originates from the White House and Obama’s new secretary of defense. Now the drawer of the “red line” appears to be looking for an eraser. Actually, Obama’s comments on Syria have always been deliberately vague. He said chemical weapons would change his calculus, that the world was watching and that he would hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for their use. But he did not, as Sen. John McCain and others beating the drums for war would have you believe, promise an actual invasion.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer.

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