Did Bashar al-Assad already use chemical weapons on his own people? A secret State Department cable obtained by Foreign Policy makes the case that a Syrian tank fired a shell loaded with a poison gas known as Agent 15 during fighting in Homs on Dec. 23. Doctors say five people were killed—a strong case that this was no mere tear gas—and about 100 injured with respiratory and nervous system ailments.
"We can't definitely say 100%, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs," said a White House official. President Obama previously warned Assad not to cross the "red line" of chemical weapons use, and a top-level policy meeting on Syria takes place this week. The Foreign Policy report describes Agent 15 as being on the low end of chemical weapons, perhaps chosen by Assad as a way to test US limits. (Read more Syria stories.)