Syria used chemical weapons, White House says

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House said for the first time Thursday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel acknowledged that while speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi. A short time later, the White House released a letter sent to congressional leaders in the last day.

“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” according to the letter.

The letter went to Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

President Barack Obama has said several times that the use of chemicals weapons in Syria would trigger what he called a “red line” that might lead to greater intervention in the two-year-old civil war.

Earlier this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly declined to say whether the United States agrees with three major allies — Israel, Britain and France — that Syria has used chemical weapons.

He said the administration was still investigating the allegation, but that the White House was “concerned” about the reports.

No information has been made public on what quantity of chemical weapons might have been used or when or what injuries or deaths might have resulted.