Mixed signals sent in Washington's approach to Syrian intervention

While Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons against its own people, it appears the United States may not intervene militarily despite an established red line against the use of chemical munitions.

A recently leaked secret cable by the U.S. State Department found evidence that Syria may have used poison gas during an attack. Nashwan Abu Abdo, a Syrian neurologist, confirmed that the symptoms of the victims involved pointed to chemical weapon use, the Western Herald reports.

"It was a chemical weapon, we are sure of that, because tear gas can't cause the death of five people," Abdo reports, according to the Western Herald.

On August 20, President Obama said that a red line for the U.S. would be if chemical weapons started moving around or were used in Syria. On December 3, when Bashar al-Assad's regime was thought to be moving chemical stocks, President Obama revised the decree.

Karl Hokenmaier, an American foreign policy professor at Western Michigan University, said that the use of a red line by the Obama administration allows the president to take a stance without committing to a specific course of action.

"As a superpower you can't avoid stating your position, the president is forced to say some things he might rather say nothing about if given the choice," Hokenmaier said, according to the Western Herald. "We've been at war since 2001. Militarily, we're tired. (Now) it's about smart power; look at how much we've used drones and attempted to seek multilateral solutions to common problems."

Hokenmaier said that with the upcoming withdrawal in Afghanistan, it is unlikely that troops would be placed in Syria the following week.

A December 20 poll by ABC found that 63 percent of the participants would support U.S. military involvement if Syria used chemical weapons against its own people versus 30 percent against intervention. The survey found that 62 percent of Americans would implement a no-fly zone if ground troops were not needed, the Western Herald reports.