With the White House giving a final push to convince skeptical lawmakers before they begin the new Congressional session Monday, a German newspaper is now reporting that intelligence suggests that government troops launched the chemical assault of August 21 without Assad's approval.
According to the article in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, a German surveillance ship intercepted phone calls which indicate that government forces repeatedly asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for permission to use chemical weapons, over a period of four and a half months — requests which the Syrian President denied every time.
But rather than weaken the Obama administration's case, the intelligence adds credence to the idea that the rebel groups weren't behind the attacks. While Assad may not have given a personal go-ahead, the interceptions suggest that Syrian government forces were at the ready to make use of the chemical weapon stockpile.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that Assad could avoid military strikes on his country if he were to hand over all chemical weapons.
"Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting," Kerry said. Then added, "But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done."
The comments came during a press conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, with whom Kerry was meeting in order to discuss the possibility of punitive strikes in Syria in response to the chemical weapons allegedly carried out by the Syrian regime in Damascus on August 21.
President Barack Obama is also making a final public relations effort, with several interviews scheduled for Monday evening with major news networks, and a televised national address on Tuesday night.