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President Obama had to do something after Syria 'red line crossing

President Assad's regime have been accused of using chemical weapons. Photo:

At first glance it seems that America is finally rousing itself. But the more you examine Washington's overnight decision, the more it look like weak policy and a feeble intervention.

After two years of indecision over Syria, America has decided to tinker on the edges of the civil war.

The CIA will pump into the Syrian conflict the one thing there is no shortage of - small arms and ammunition.

The US has no clear mechanism to ensure weapons don't reach Islamic militants within the Syrian opposition. This is a policy of supply and hope.

The decision to provide small arms - and possibly anti-tank weapons - is driven by the need to maintain the credibility of the White House.

President Obama had warned that if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons it would represent a "red line."

Now that America's spy agencies have concluded with a "high degree of confidence" that Sarin has been used, President Obama had to do something.

President Obama previously said the US will not "leap before we look" in respect of chemical weapons in Syria claims. Credit: Reuters

The US intelligence community calculates that between 100 and 150 people have been killed with nerve gas.

So we've arrived at this awkward compromise. America will arm the rebels and try to level the battle-field. But anti-aircraft weapons and a no-fly zone appear to have been ruled out.

The President's advisers are driven by a desire to ensure that Iran and its Lebanese proxy army Hezbollah do not emerge as winners. That would have implications across the region for a generation.

But none of this changes the basic outlines of the Syrian war.

Both sides are deadlocked and there's no chance of a knock-out punch. America remains hopelessly indecisive; Europe deeply divided.

The President's reluctant finger-prints are all over this announcement. In Libya, he led from behind.

In Syria, he is entering the fray with a timidity that seems certain to fail.