The United States today assured the world that the “red line” against chemical weapons use applies equally to both the Assad government in Syria and the rebel forces. “We are not hypocrites,” said White House spokesperson Janus Touphaisse. “We have the same standards for everyone.”
I met later with Mr. Touphaisse for further details.
Barb Weir: Does this mean that the U.S. no longer has a “high level of confidence” that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including sarin, as you said on June 13, 2013?
Janus Touphaisse: No, of course not. We still have just as high a level of confidence. It’s just that we have no reason for it.
Barb Weir: Are you saying that perhaps chemical weapons were not used?
Janus Touphaisse: That’s ridiculous. Of course they were used. Almost everyone agrees on that. We’re only saying that even though we have a high level of confidence that the regime used them, they probably didn’t.
Barb Weir: Do you have evidence that it may have been the rebels?
Janus Touphaisse: I refer to Gen. James Clapper’s response to Congress about whether the NSA collects any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.
Barb Weir: And that was…
Janus Touphaisse: He very clearly said no, but if you like, I can refer to our position on whether the Egyptian military staged a coup d’état in Egypt.
Barb Weir: Well, if it wasn’t the regime and it wasn’t the rebels, who was it?
Janus Touphaisse: Anything is possible, Ms. Weir. Some people think we might have had a hand in it, or the Israelis. Personally, I would blame the North Koreans or the Iranians, but that’s who I am.
Barb Weir: OK, so it wouldn’t be enough to discover that the Assad regime hadn’t used chemical weapons? You would need proof that it was the rebels?
Janus Touphaisse: Conclusive proof, not merely a “high level of confidence”.
Barb Weir: So what is the significance of your announcement?
Janus Touphaisse: What if someone rats out the rebels? We have to be prepared. That’s why we have to say that we would treat them the same way we would the regime.
Barb Weir: And how is that, exactly?
Janus Touphaisse: We would declare a no-fly zone over Syria, of course, so the rebels would be unable to use their aircraft against the regime.
Barb Weir: Excuse me, Mr. Touphaisse, but only the regime has aircraft. The rebels have none.
Janus Touphaisse: That may be true, Ms. Weir, but we have to be even-handed. We have to use the same policy against the rebels as we would against the regime. We don’t want to be taken for hypocrites, you know.