U.S. officials: No, Assad didn't use chemical weapons

It’s Hoax Exposure Day on the Internet, I guess.

Or is this just a way of stamping out some incendiary news that might force the White House to enforce its “red lines” in Syria?

The gas was determined to be a “riot control agent” that was not designed to produce lasting effects, but became more dangerous when it was released in dense areas and was not dispersed in the air quickly, the officials said.

“It is meant to be short term,” one of the officials said. “But just like with tear gas, if you breathe in an entire canister, that can have a severe effect on your lungs and other organs.”…

The senior U.S. officials said the symptoms in those who inhaled the gas were similar to those in people exposed to Agent 15, an incapacitating gas controlled by the Chemical Weapons Convention, although it was later determined not to be Agent 15.

The officials also said that while some Syrian doctors on the ground were convinced the gas was a chemical weapon, others were not.

The WMD report didn’t make sense to me yesterday and it doesn’t make sense now. If Assad’s reached the point where he’s willing to risk an international intervention over chemical weapons, why use an “incapacitating agent” like Agent 15 instead of sarin or VX and why do it on such a small scale? If you’re crazy enough to break the WMD taboo, you’re crazy enough to really shatter it. And I still don’t understand the theory that he was testing America’s “red lines.” Why would he? If the U.S. didn’t attack him over a “minor” use of chemical weapons in Homs, it’d end up attacking him once he escalated and started using WMD on a grander scale. Obama really has no choice after warning Assad repeatedly in public. So what would the “test” have accomplished?

More from Danger Room:

U.S. officials contacted by Danger Room said the information in the cable originated from a contractor hired by the State Department to monitor opposition media coming from Syria. After the attack in Homs, rebel activists posted gut-wrenching videos to YouTube of gasping victims crying out in agony. In the clips, opposition figures claimed that they had been hit with a poison gas — maybe a nerve agent, maybe a hallucinogen…

It almost certainly wasn’t a hallucinogen, either. CNN also interviewed a doctor who said he treated victims in Homs with atropine. If that’s true, it rules out the use of a hallucinogen like Agent 15. Both are anticholinergic agents, blocking the neurotransmitters in the parasympathetic nervous system. One would only enhance the effect of the other.

Your exit question, which is the same question I posed yesterday but now with even more significance: Which “Obama administration official” leaked the blockbuster allegation about WMD to The Cable?