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'Core' US interests now at stake in Syria, Obama says. Will he take action?

Obama's references to the 'core national interests' that would be threatened by the use or spread of chemical weapons in the Middle East could be a sign that a decision on US action in Syria is closer.

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President Barack Obama speaks in Syracuse, N.Y., Thursday. Obama says that a possible chemical weapons attack in Syria this week is a 'big event of grave concern' that has hastened the timeframe for determining a US response.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File

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President Obama’s assertion that “core national interests” are now on the line following what looks increasingly to have been large-scale use of chemical weapons this week against rebel strongholds outside Damascus suggests the US is moving closer to some form of intervention in Syria.

Until now, Mr. Obama has kept the United States largely aloof from Syria’s civil war since it was sparked by repression of antigovernment protests in March 2011.

But White House references to the vital national interests that would be threatened by the use or spread of chemical weapons in the volatile Middle East could be a sign that some decision on US action in Syria is closer than just a week ago, when the conflict had largely retreated to the background.

Obama acknowledged as much in an interview Friday on CNN’s “New Day,” when he said the alleged attacks had shortened the time frame for decisions on any US and international intervention in the conflict.

Yet as he has in the past, Obama placed those decisions in the context of “what’s going to be in our long-term national interests,” and he enumerated some of the “core national interests” he’ll be weighing, including “making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.”

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