Holes in the case already have allowed Russia to dismiss the U.S. evidence as inconclusive, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying in a speech Monday that Moscow was shown some sketches, but there was nothing concrete, no geographical coordinates, or details and no proof the test was done by professionals, according to the state-backed RT news agency.
When we ask for further clarification, we receive the following response: you are aware that this is classified information, therefore we cannot show it to you, Lavrov said. So there are still no facts.
Lavrovs remarks signaled that Russia, one of the last Assad allies, was nowhere near being convinced enough stop its repeated blocking of U.N. Security Council resolutions targeting the regime.
But theres also skepticism among U.S.-friendly nations, such as Jordan, which declined to endorse action until it studies the findings of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation, and the United Kingdom, where Parliament voted against intervention even before the U.S. released an intelligence assessment that contradicted one released a day before by British authorities.
Its unclear how much a factor the evidence was in Parliaments decisions; theres also a high degree of wariness of any U.S.-led intervention after the Iraq experience.
The U.S. did get a boost Monday from the commander of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who told a news conference hed seen concrete information that convinced him of the Assad regimes responsibility for an apparent chemical attack that killed hundreds of people in August.
Rasmussen said it would send a dangerous signal to dictators if the world didnt respond, but he left it up to NATO nations to decide their own responses and didnt advocate action beyond protecting member state Turkey, which borders Syria.
U.S. allies across the Arab world and Europe have said they prefer delaying any potential military strikes until after the U.N. inspection team releases its findings. The U.N. mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons were used, but not to assign culpability. U.N. officials have said theyre trying to expedite the inspection teams work while protecting the integrity of the process.
Jonathan Landay in Amman, Jordan, Matthew Schofield in Berlin and Special Correspondent Mitchell Prothero in Beirut contributed to this report.