These events play out in the shadow of Assad’s inventory of chemical weapons. As domestic disorder escalates and the Assad regime becomes more eager to regain control, public reports suggest that the regime may be preparing to use chemical weapons. When it comes to chemical weapons, we must be clear and unequivocal: If the United States receives credible intelligence that the Assad regime is using — or preparing to use — chemical weapons against the Syrian people, we will respond with swift and devastating military force.

Before that happens, we must renew our efforts to create a more stable Syria. It is clear that the current U.S. approach — focusing on diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions while offering next to no military assistance — simply has not worked. For far too long, the United States has ignored pleas for military aid and avoided opportunities to shape both the nature of the Syrian opposition and the direction of this conflict. Because of this passivity, our allies and the Syrian opposition are skeptical of our support and credibility.