U.S. intelligence officials have figured out the timeline of how Syrian government forces were able to store, assemble and launch the chemical weapons allegedly used in last week’s attack outside Damascus. The Obama administration is going to release evidence that it claims will prove that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for an “undeniable” chemical attack that killed hundreds on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is compiling the report. The evidence reportedly includes "panicked" phone calls between Syria's foreign ministry and the leader of a chemical weapons unit. Once the report is released, it will be one of the last steps taken by the administration before President Barack Obama makes a decision about whether to order a U.S. military strike against Syria.
“We are prepared,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take. We are ready to go.” The United States has four cruise-missile-armed destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea.
Britain, France and Turkey have all indicated they would be willing to contribute to military action. In addition to a number of other issues, the safety of United Nations experts who are in Syria investigating the chemical weapons allegations is also a concern.
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The U.N. experts have had their investigation, which was supposed to conclude on Sunday, postponed because of safety concerns, The Washington Post reported.
“We are concerned about the possibility that the Syrian government would seek to delay access and negotiate so as to seek to keep this [inspection] process going and avert the consequences,” said the administration official.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem claimed the charges of chemical weapons used by the government are “categorically baseless,” and that Syrian wanted the U.N. officials to finish their inspection.
“We all hear the drums of war around us,” Moualem said. “If they want to attack Syria, I think that using the lie of chemical weapons is fake and not accurate, and I challenge them to show evidence.”