US intelligence has evidence of Syrian chemical attack

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

US intelligence says it has established how the Syrian government of president Bashar al-Assad stored, created, and released chemical weapons in last week’s attack outside the capital of Damascus. It plans on releasing the evidence soon, likely on Thursday, to prove that al-Assad is responsible. The report is currently being put together by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and is likely one of the last steps President Barack Obama will take before coordinating a strike against Syria.

“We are prepared,” said US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the BBC on Tuesday. “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.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, on the other hand, says, “We all hear the drums of war around us.” He believes, “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.”

US supplies to Syria
US humanitarian relief aid for Syrian rebels.

France, Britain, and Turkey are with the US in their willingness to contribute military power against Syria, but countries like Russia are more hesitant. After talking with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke expressed that his own government “did not have evidence of whether a chemical weapons attack had taken place, or who was responsible.” Saudi Arabia seems to be on board with the US, because its longtime foreign minister said that a “decisive and serious” international stand is needed against Syria. French President François Hollande was even more aggressively supportive in a televised speech, saying, “France is ready to punish those who took the decision to gas the innocent.”

So what exactly will the US do if it strikes Syria? “The conventional wisdom is that they will launch some Tomahawks [cruise missiles] from destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. That’s not going to dramatically change the course of events in Syria,” said Ryan C. Crocker, who was once a US ambassador to Syria and Iraq.  US officials have made similar statements, that a military response would be quick and strong enough to damage some Syrian military installations, but mostly serve as a warning against future chemical attacks.