“The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete,” Mr. Rhodes said, indicating that there may well be more casualties from chemical weapons.
“The body of information used to make this intelligence assessment includes reporting regarding Syrian officials planning and executing regime chemical weapons attacks; reporting that includes descriptions of the time, location, and means of attack; and descriptions of physiological symptoms that are consistent with exposure to a chemical weapons agent,” Rhodes said.
In his earlier warning to Syria, Obama had said this: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons being moved around or utilized. There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movements on the chemical weapons or use, that would change my calculations significantly.”
“A whole bunch of chemical weapons” and “change my calculations significantly” are phrases designed for maximum flexibility.