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 Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1534.

    1464 dada

    dada himself would personally Take His Name Back from Grotesque usage from your
    creepy creepy chem tainted hands. So creepy an ('Israel did it') 'artiste' gracing this page with "the Big Lie".


  • rate this

    Comment number 1533.


    I've seen pictures from this conflict that have made me wonder what the point in anything is

    Children slit open their guts hanging out missing limbs corpses piled up blood flowing in the streets as if it were water

    Further madness never ends madness

    I feel deeply ashamed to be "human" we are nothing right now, we are destruction.

    We collectively fear death, I fear other humans more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1532.

    Its really frightening that Kerry said he watched the bodies of Syria chemical attack on the Internet. May be that is where he got his evidence of the chemical attack..He look so uncomfortable during his press conference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1531.

    Its easy to see that Kerry is lying on at least one point. He uses the phrase "first hand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground, like Doctors Without Borders..." Just go to DWB's website and read their statement. They were NOT on the ground. They merely reported the communication they had from doctors they have given support to. A small point, perhaps, but a lie nonetheless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1530.

    How could a regime that fought so ferociously and cunningly for over 2 and a half years commit the most stupid form of political suicide? If someone wanted to frame it for that chemical attack could they possibly have done a better job? How could evidence "analyzed" by the regime's mortal enemies be considered as viable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1529.

    W set the standard for "hard evidence." I feel for Obama, Cameron, and anyone else who has to make the hard decisions. They are in a no-win.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1528.

    @1527. eire73
    Nope, and our education system is largely geared up to say "tyranny whwat tyranny, we're discussing kings and queens, dukes and duchesses. no tyranny in a monarchy.... and here's a little info on the few times you all got your act together and told us no.... but gee. isn't life as a princess great." We mention the torture... but as a historical byline no mention that THIS IS BAD! :O

  • rate this

    Comment number 1527.

    do british people even know their own past of tyranny b4 they go off on america,and btw didnt you cause two wars in the us. and all the countries and people your murdered. lol. are you guys serious and i never recall any member of the brtish government ever apologise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1526.

    1466.Velvet Streak
    5 Hours ago

    Awarded Best Idea And Best Comment

    No prize except acknowledgement of Excellence..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1525.

    There is no UK public appetite for more failed wars, more pulverised ex-dictatorships and more failed states
    It is time for parliament to represent the public opinion accurately

  • rate this

    Comment number 1524.

    812 The big powers SHOULD have found a solution long ago. The League of Anti-Democratic Dictators didn’t want to throw one of their own under a bus, lest they follow.

    1264 mr teapot such puerile logic. Marx lived in England, Kim Jong Un lived in Switzerland, Mengele a Doctor who worked at death camps, Stalin a seminarian before he became a Ruski hero and mass murder.
    Good job Czar Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1523.

    @brian and the british shot no unarmed people in NI,how funny the british always forget what they were like

  • rate this

    Comment number 1522.

    In the US you can shoot an unarmed man it's called self-defence (sorry, defense). Would you trust American common sense?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1521.

    799 BADMAG Who benefits from the obvious Russian-Syrian agitprop deluge on the BBC? False flag, false flag.

    823 neonisoff Maybe BBC knows your IP Addresses Tovarish. False flag.

    842 misha “cleverly” reveals that the pro-Syria posts are maskirovka [Russian dirty tricks]. I hope Misha survives Siberia after letting Putin’s cat out of Assad’s bag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1520.

    Common sense, uh?! That is a good way to decide on bombing a country!

    These are the same people who had full and reliable intelligence reports to go to war in Iraq.

    And what do they want to bomb? If purpose is not regime change nor bombing storage sites, that becomes a very good question. Particularly if the idea is to protect the people.

    But a bombing can help hide budget shortfalls . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1519.

    gene-pool politics which monitor power struggles among terrestrial humanity are transcended in this info-world, seen as static, artificial charades. One is neither coercively manipulated into another's territorial reality nor forced to struggle against it with reciprocal game-playing (the usual soap opera dramatics). One simply elects consciously, whether or not to share the other's reality tunnel

  • rate this

    Comment number 1518.

    1225. JPJ56 Tovarish, everyone knows Assads were puppets of Russia/USSR, there is a Russian base there. This propaganda is infantile.

    797 stuart_pc Yes the Syrians know how to deal with unhappy citizens who want a change in government, kill them. Russians are more civilized, imprison on trumped up charges and confiscate any money, of even obscure girl bands. [Vote for Putin or else]!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1517.

    "998 Faith Misplaced Of course we Americans started it with that stupid, liberal, democratic Declaration of Independence in 1776."

    If only you would go back to your isolationalistically independent prepubescent sulk.

    Stroppy teenage nations are soooo difficult to civilize..;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1516.

    Every kind of ignorance in the world all results from not realizing that our perceptions are gambles. We believe what we see and then we believe our interpretation of it, we don't even know we are making an interpretation most of the time. We think this is reality
    – Robert Anton Wilson

  • rate this

    Comment number 1515.

    if they do want to destroy them selves who cares i look after my own


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