U.S.: “Little Doubt” Syria Used Chemical Weapons

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 25 2013 2:37 PM

U.S.: “Little Doubt” Syria Used Chemical Weapons Against Civilians

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The UN chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus on August 18, 2013

Photo by LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

In what looks like the beginning of a harder stance on Syria, the Obama administration said Sunday that it almost seems certain the regime used chemical weapons against civilians last week. Even as President Bashar al-Assad tried to seem conciliatory by agreeing to allow United Nations inspectors to examine the site of the suspected chemical weapons attack, the White House dismissed it as too little, too late, notes Reuters.

By continuing to shell the site of the suspected attack, the Syrian regime seemed determined to hide any evidence of a chemical attack, highlights the Washington Post. “If the Syrian government had nothing to hide and wanted to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons in this incident, it would have ceased its attacks on the area and granted immediate access to the U.N. five days ago,” the U.S. official said. “At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team is too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted.”

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The official did not suggest President Obama had decided on military action, but the administration is making sure it gets all its ducks in a row in case some sort of involvement is ordered. The Pentagon has moved warships into place and “prepared military options for the white House that include cruise missile strikes on regime targets,” notes the Wall Street Journal.

Two key lawmakers called for the United States to respond militarily to the suspected chemical weapons attack. Republican Sen. Bob Corker said the United States should respond in a "surgical and proportional way, something that gets their attention," according to the Associated Press. Rep. Eliot Engel agreed, saying the response should be similar to what “we have done in Libya,” suggesting cruise missile strikes to destroy airport runways.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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