Nightly News   |  June 13, 2013

White House to Syria: ‘red line’ has been crossed

According to a new intelligence assessment shared with both Congress and key U.S. allies around the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical gas on his own people, killing as many as 150 Syrians. Since then, the White House has been quietly ramping up support for the Syrian opposition. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> good evening, i'm lester holt in tonight for brian. the white house announced late this afternoon that syria 's government has crossed the redline by using nerve gas and other chemical weapons against the opposition in its ongoing civil war , with fresh intelligence in hand, it concludes syria has used the weapons multiple times in the past year, the obama administration said it would be getting increasing military assistance to the syrian opposition, but what kind of support is unclear, as is just how deeply involved in the syrian crisis the u.s. is prepared to get. chuck todd has more on this for us. chuck.

>> good evening, lester. after months of internal deliberations, the white house late today announced its first significant effort to try to intervene in the syrian civil war . the decision after the white house confirmed assad has been using chemical weapons and among growing public pressure to do more, from john mccain on the right to bill clinton on the left. bashar al- assad 's use of chemical weapons would be a red line . the red line , has indeed been crossed. a new intelligence assessment shared with congress and key u.s. allies around the world. assad has used chemical weapons , namely, sarin gas , on a small scale, killing as many as 150 syrians. today's assessment, a preliminary assessment about a report that the president spoke about last april.

>> we have an intelligent assessment. and as i said, knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used, inside of syria , doesn't tell us when they were used, how they were used, obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure we work on with the international community .

>> since then, the white house disclosed today, they were quietly ramping up support for the syrian opposition. a group called the supreme military council . the assistance includes some military support and the white house promised more direct military support on the way, but aides would not disclose the specifics. the white house also said hezbollah's increased role in helping ing ing assaad added to the president's need to do more. john mccain raced to the senate floor brus just before the president made the announcement.

>> the president needs to understand that just supplying weapons won't change the balance of poweror the situation on the ground.

>> reporter: as for additional assistance, white house aides say those decisions will be made after consulting with key allies and congress. one additional step could include a no-fly zone, something the white house wouldn't confirm today.

>> chuck todd , thank you.