WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry says there is “undeniable” evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria, with intelligence strongly pointing to Bashar Assad’s government — a claim Assad calls “preposterous.”
Kerry said that international standards against chemical weapons “cannot be violated without consequences.” His tough language marked the clearest justification yet for any U.S. military action in Syria, which most likely would involve sea-launched cruise missile attacks on Syrian military targets.
President Barack Obama has not decided how to respond to the use of deadly gases, officials said.
The White House said last year that type of warfare would cross a “red line.”
The U.S., along with allies in Europe, appeared to be laying the groundwork for the most aggressive response since Syria’s civil war began more than two years ago.
Two administration officials said the U.S. was expected to make public a more formal determination of chemical weapons use on Tuesday, with an announcement of Obama’s response likely to follow quickly. The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the internal deliberations.
Speaking to reporters at the State Department on Monday, Kerry was harshly critical of chemical warfare.
“By any standard, it is inexcusable and — despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured — it is undeniable,” said Kerry, the highest-ranking U.S. official to confirm the attack in the Damascus suburbs that activists say killed hundreds of people.