Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a letter to the Senate Thursday, informing them that U.S. intelligence officials now believe “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Assad regime has used the chemical agent Sarin on Syrians. However, despite reiterating that the use of any chemical weapons would be a “red line” for President Obama, Hagel’s letter also said no action was forthcoming until a “United Nations investigation” can “credibly evaluate the evidence and establish what took place.”
The letter identified no timeline for the beginning or completion of this United Nations investigation.
France, Britain and Israel have previously concluded that Syria has used chemical weapons against its own citizens, and some members of Congress told Politico that the Obama administration briefed them on the use of sarin in Syria last week.
The usual interventionist hawks, Sens. John McCain, R-Ari., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are already pressing for military action. “In my view, it was crossed,” McCain told Fox News in reference to Obama’s “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons. “Not only have our intelligence people concluded that, but as importantly, the Israeli, the British and the French have as well.” Perhaps McCain has forgotten that the British and French also concluded that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But don’t expect any military action from Obama any time soon. Obama only has a narrow window to get his second term domestic agenda through Congress before next year’s midterm elections, and that window is closing fast. The Senate is about to take up his top agenda item, immigration, in the coming weeks. The last thing the Obama administration needs right now is a foreign intervention that distracts public attention and likely would distract and demoralize his political base.
From The Washington Examiner
Editorial: How the FBI was blinded by political correctness
Byron York: Gang of Eight loopholes put many illegal immigrants on fast track to citizenship
Tim Carney: When they say ‘labor shortage,’ do they just mean ‘we wish wages were lower’?
Susan Ferrechio: Senate Approves Bill to End FAA Furloughs
Phil Klein: Obamacare’s uncertainty strikes Congress
Conn Carroll: Food stamps are a case study on the need for competitive federalism
David Freddoso: Look who is purging their party now
Ron Arnold: Congress working to strip presidential land grab power
In Other News
The Hill, Senate passes measure to end airport delays: The Senate passed a bill on Thursday evening to end air traffic controller furloughs caused by the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester that have been blamed for mounting flight delays across the country.
McClatchy Newspapers, New Heartland poll paints a gloomy picture of American mood: People are increasingly concerned about the economy and increasingly skeptical of government and business institutions, a new Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll released Thursday found. The poll found that overall, the mood of the nation is worse. Twenty-nine percent said the U.S. is headed in the right direction, down from 41 percent in November.’ Democrats’ optimism is down 23 points to 54 percent, and 32 percent of the middle class feel the country is headed in the right direction.
The Washington Post, Russia trip flagged to task force: Nine months before the Boston Marathon bombing, a U.S. counterterrorism task force received a warning that a suspected militant had returned from a lengthy trip to Russia, U.S. officials said.
The New York Times, Federal Spigot Flows as Farmers Claim Discrimination: Government payments to address minority farmers’ claims of discrimination by the Agriculture Department have ballooned amid signs of fraud.
McClatchy Newspapers, Disaster stirs little outrage in Texas town: A week after a fertilizer plant explosion killed 14 residents, injured more than 150 others and leveled scores of homes, one emotion is notably absent here among citizens and officials alike: outrage. “Water under the bridge,” said Steve Vanek, West’s mayor pro-tem, referring to decisions that allowed homes and schools to be built near the plant.
The Hill, Judiciary to start piece-by-piece approach to immigration reform: Saying the committee would examine immigration reform “in a step-by-step approach,” Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said Republicans would introduce the first two pieces of legislation this week. One bill would establish an agricultural guest-worker program, while the other would create an employment verification system for businesses.
Matt Taibbi on The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever.
Jonathan Chait calls President Bush stupid.
The Economic Policy Institute says there is no shortage of STEM workers.
Mother Jones publishes a secret tape where Frank Luntz calls Rush Limbaugh a problem.
Veronique de Rugy calls Fisker the Solyndra of the electric car industry.
Megan McArdle explains why the Internet sales tax is a bad idea.
Michelle Malkin gives Marco Rubio a history lesson on immigration.