Foreign Policy magazine published a remarkable story last night revealing that American diplomats have concluded that Bashar al-Assad probably used chemical weapons against his own people last month.

After speaking with activists on the ground, doctors, and key military defectors who previously played a role in the country’s WMD programme, one official concluded: ‘We can’t definitely say 100 percent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23.’ (Activists uploaded this graphic video showing the effects on its victims).

Sign up to our newsletters

This would chime with other intelligence the Obama administration is receiving, particularly from Assad’s former spokesman Jihad Makdissi who defected last month and is now in America. Having been part of Assad’s inner circle he provided some of the most authoritative intelligence that the regime is preparing itself to use WMD.

Experts suggest that Agent 15 is one of the less harmful chemical warfare agents in Syria’s arsenal and that Assad is testing the extent to which he can push the international community. Both Obama and William Hague have long insisted that the use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’ they are not prepared to tolerate. Since the cable was written, however, no significant change in policy has been evident. This will only embolden Assad, and his brutal crackdown.

Tags: Syria