How strong is US evidence of Syria chemical attack?

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the state department in Washington DC, 27 August 2013 John Kerry said evidence of a chemical attack may have been destroyed by shelling

Some US politicians in Congress would like the same right that has been given to British members of Parliament - to vote on whether or not action can be taken against Syria.

One has tweeted that the office of the president can only bypass Congress to make war in the event of a national emergency, although of course it has been done before.

It is likely that President Barack Obama would easily get the authorisation to take military action, but it does mean the media is the only forum to properly test the administration's case.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his speech on Monday, and Press Secretary Jay Carney at the White House, make the same argument. They say "common sense" tells the world this was a chemical attack and it was carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

'Rocket capacity'

Mr Kerry said: "The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the first-hand accounts from humanitarian organisations on the ground, like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission, these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real: that chemical weapons were used in Syria."

He went on: "Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons.

"We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place."

This is circumstantial and puts a heavy weight on "common sense".

It raises important questions about how strong the evidence needs to be to take such drastic action.

Mr Kerry is of course right that most people will think as he does, simply from watching the TV pictures.

Some, however, will demand much stronger proof, particularly in the wake of the faulty intelligence that was used as a reason to go to war against Iraq.

President Obama has declassified an intelligence report that will be released in the coming days, setting out further analysis.

Members of Congress and British MPs will expect some firm answers - and the public will expect a high degree of scrutiny.

Map showing the areas where the alleged chemical attacks took place in Syria
Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    CIA-Trained Opposition Forces Invaded Syria From Jordan
    According to France's Le Figaro, two columns of CIA/Israeli/Jordanian-trained Syrian opposition fighters entered southern Syria in mid-August, the first, consisting of 300 men, on Aug. 17, with the second following on Aug. 19
    false flag
    jewish american wearing black ski masks millwall t-shirts chanting songs

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    Pseudo democracy has failed, once again on a vital issue the will of the people is ignored, the interests of a tiny minority are served to the detriment of the lives and conscience of the rest of us. I propose a GENERAL STRIKE until the current government is brought down, and a serious debate about how to get a more open and honest democracy in this country. What other option have we been left?

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Cameron may as well join the American army, after all, in the earlier days of the war in afghanistan, didn't they kill more British soldiers than the taliban?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    US backed rebels conveniently give them a cause to go to war. theres no proof it even happened, look up fake footage leaked online of actors supposedly hit by sarin gas. this is a ruse, why you assad give us the excuse to go to war when hes been killing perfectly well for 2 years now. this is USA behind this and were no better. we are the war criminals here and im damn well ashamed to live in UK

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Some have made a comment about how they thought the next war would be against Iran - it will be by proxy as the closest ally of Syria is Iran.
    But they cant attack Iran directly due to the high level of both Air and sea defences which would result in the US loosing a lot of ships. including their aircraft carriers. So why not lets antagonise Iran another way - Voila Syria!

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    "How strong is US evidence of Syria chemical attack?"

    As strong as WMDs in Iraq I'm guessing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    This is stage one in attacking Iran. Get out on the street on Sat to protest - Stop the War are organising a demo in London. If it's not too late by then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    What the hell are the UN doing? Does nobody there think that the murder of 100,000 people might possibly be a trigger for some sort of action?

    The ordinary man, yet again screwed over by murderous despots in the name of politics. I hate this world and all it stands for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    The US/UK doesn't do 'proof' as we know.Unless Russia and China do more than rattle their sabres and threaten to counter any US/UK 'invasion' of Syria then we can expect military intervention but if Moscow/Beijing do counter then we are thrown into a global nightmare. Neither prospect is appealing but the third option remains. We could all just mind our own business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.



    THERE IS NO PROOF! (and even if there was we cant afford to be world police!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    And here was me thinking the next oil-war would be against Iran.

    Any chance this chemical attack evidence has been 'sexed up'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    How big is USA's War Spy Drone Zone is there a get out of jail card free for Americans Presidents warring illegally spying illegally droning illegally

    How to hold the USA and footstool UK to account for breaches in rights without them starting another war to save own bums

    Biggest warmongers are UK US followed by Israel statistically
    Who will reign in dogs of wars in 21st Century teach obedience

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    It will be as strong as their evidence they had for the Iraq war....mind you, with all this spying into everyone's lives...who knows?

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    They stand by while 100,000 lives are lost mostly to conventional weapons, seems that's ok, but kill a minority of that number using chemical weapons and they're up in arms, pathetic liars and manipulators. All war casualties are abhorrent, all wars are destructive, lives lost, no matter how, are losses. Listen to them and hear the bull. They become more aggressive,the more their lies are denied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    This situation is unlike the Iraq WMD debacle -where no weapons had been found, let alone used.
    However we need to have proof of guilt. That's a damn site more sure than we were about WMD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    Where is the scientific evidence for chemical weapons' use?

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    For more than 200 year we, as a nation have been trampling over the near and far east trying to mould it into our idea of democracy and killing and displacing millions in the process. It is time we stopped and let the inhabitants of these countries sort themselves out. We are prolonging the conflicts by meddling in them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    Some people gobbing-off about keyboard warriors...Must be ex-front line Afghan troops with the Kahunas to match. How's the PTSD going? Still getting flashbacks from your mates getting killed? Blown up? Still seeing them young kids after they've stood on an IED while going to school? Feel betrayed by your Country for fighting others' wars yet not looking after our own? Armchair warriors? YOU WISH..

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    :) Any scientist working for the military.

    Take a look. Take a moment to think. Is what you are doing science or has your will to learn, to question, to grow, been corrupted by your governments needs and demands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    @590 I am a serving British officer. I have toured Afghanistan and seen the devastation left by a controlling regime that attacks and murders innocent men women and children. Armchair warrior? No.
    Concerned? Yes.


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