Syria Says it Will Respond To Aggression As U.S. Prepares To Present Evidence Of Chemical Attack
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad says he won't take a strike by the U.S. lying down.
According to Syrian state new agency SANA, Assad told a visiting Yemeni delegation that "Syria will defend itself against any aggression."
Assad's comments come as the United Nations edges closer to determining whether or not to approve an international response to alleged uses of chemical weapons, and as the U.S. weighs the decision of whether or not to strike, either unilaterally or with the support of the U.N.
The international outrage has come with a side of caution in recent days, after U.S. officials expressed certainty over the use of chemical weapons and the Assad regime's involvement in the attacks. Other nations, and many Americans, recalled the Bush administration's claims that a war in Iraq was necessary because of the country's possession of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
Now the burden of proof is on the United States. A presentation of evidence that is supposed to unequivocally prove that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on its people could come as soon as Thursday.
According to intelligence officials who spoke to the Associated Press, the information is "not a slam dunk." The evidence discovered proves that chemical warfare was in fact used, but leaves many questions still on the table, such as who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons and if the order to use them did in fact come from Assad.
The AP also reported that intelligence agencies had a difficult time locating Assad's store of chemical weapons, which means that the planned strikes could be ineffective in their mission.
U.S. officials prepared for their evidence presentation by trying to temper expectations on Wednesday, saying that there was "no smoking gun" that would link Assad to the attack. But Spokeswoman for the State Department Marie Harf said that President Assad is still viewed as responsible. “The commander in chief of any military is ultimately responsible for decisions made under their leadership,” she said.
Instead of a long speech, the presentation is expected to be a shorter briefing on the findings.
As the administration creeps closer to presenting their case and deciding on a course of action, Republicans have come out in droves to offer criticism and ask Obama to identify how involvement in Syria fits with the U.S.'s national interest.
For his part, Obama has said that he had not yet made a decision on what to do about Syria, but that a military response would be meant to be a quick one, not the start of another Middle Eastern war. “We can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict. Not another repetition of, you know, Iraq," Obama told NewsHour on Wednesday night.