Conclusive testing to prove or disprove chemical weapons use would require an impartial body, most likely the United Nations with the help of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to be on the ground to take soil and blood samples. Assads regime, claiming much of the international community would not treat it fairly, has resisted the idea of a U.N. team unless it included Russian experts. Russia continues to support the Syrian regime.
Without such proof, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday urged caution against taking precipitous action based on limited evidence. He called intelligence assessments extremely valuable, and significant, but insufficient to make a final determination on whether chemical weapons had been used.
We are now in the process of gathering the facts, not rushing to conclusions, not acting precipitously based on an incomplete case, but gathering the facts in order to make a judgment about what policy actions the president might take in reaction to the crossing of the red line, Carney said.
Still, Carney was dismissive of Del Pontes suggestion that it was the rebels, not the government, who had used chemical weapons, describing the White House as highly skeptical of the idea. A State Department official said rebels arent believed to possess chemical weapons, and Pentagon spokesman George Little said that if chemical weapons were used, the Syrian regime would be responsible.
Facts are not complete, as the president himself has said, and we need to continue to gather facts and to get facts that are corroborated, and so we are doing that both through our own means and working with partners, a senior State Department official told reporters Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly.
David Lightman and Lesley Clark of the Washington Bureau contributed.