Intelligence Not Certain Chemical Attack in Syria Came From Assad

Posted: Aug 29, 2013 11:22 AM
Intelligence Not Certain Chemical Attack in Syria Came From Assad
Yesterday during an interview on PBS, President Obama said the United States has "concluded" the Assad regime used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels.

"We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons on – or chemical weapons of that sort," Obama said. "We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out. And if that's so, then there need to be international consequences."

Vice President Joe Biden said there was "no doubt" Assad, not the rebels, was responsible for the chemical attack.

"We know that the Syrian regime are the only ones who have the weapons," Biden said, "have used chemical weapons multiple times in the past, have the means of delivering those weapons, have been determined to wipe out exactly the places that were attacked by chemical weapons."
But according to Associated Press intelligence sources, we actually don't exactly know who was responsible.

The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed at least 100 people is no "slam dunk," with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say.

Multiple U.S. officials used the phrase "not a slam dunk" to describe the intelligence picture — a reference to then-CIA Director George Tenet's insistence in 2002 that U.S. intelligence showing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk" — intelligence that turned out to be wrong.

A report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining that evidence against Syria is thick with caveats. It builds a case that Assad's forces are most likely responsible while outlining gaps in the U.S. intelligence picture. Relevant congressional committees were to be briefed on that evidence by teleconference call on Thursday, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.

If anything, Obama should consult Congress before issuing a strike for the sake of avoiding all responsibility for failure. Not to mention, if Obama moves forward with an attack now, he won't be able to blame the intelligence community for bad information (as he often does).