John Kerry Discusses Evidence of Chemical Attacks by Assad Regime in Syria:Digital Special Report

Sec. of State says chemical attacks killed 1429 people, including 426 children.
25:28 | 08/30/13

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Transcript for John Kerry Discusses Evidence of Chemical Attacks by Assad Regime in Syria:Digital Special Report
I'm -- -- New -- -- -- ABC news digital special reports we are taking a look. And video of president Obama's senior national security staff entering the White House this morning around 10 o'clock eastern time. At stake whether and how the United States will proceed with missile strikes inside Syria and most pressing today if President Obama is willing to do it. Without international support. Secretary of state John Kerry is slated to speak in about a half hour -- address that soon to be released declassified intelligence report on what the administration is calling. A chemical weapons attack. On Syrian civilians carried out by their President Bush are -- -- not on the street from Washington now ABC news White House correspondent Jim -- -- Is standing by that Jim do we think this meeting is more about how to pursue military strikes in Syria or is it whether to do it at all. But inside we're getting about the meeting is going on now that it's an important one justices. Probably not the last meeting that they're gonna happen before any kind of action is taken they may not be -- big -- but it is an important meeting that's going on. And that -- and especially in light what happened late in the day yesterday with Britain. Pulling out of any kind of action Britons now saying. The parliament voting not to participate in any kind a military strike. Only the French now Willis saying that they're willing to help the United States. So in light of that. That is sort of with a meeting is and that's why there that's what's what's going on there will go learn more about this later today around 2 o'clock. -- saying that secretary of state John Kerry. Holds give delivers remarks a statement. At the State Department we're told that he will have some insight into what went on at this meeting it is very possible. That there what they're gonna come out and decision and -- announce this afternoon. Is that they've decided to take some kind of military action that would be a step forward. From what they've said before which is all they've said before is they continued to respond and what kind of action. -- -- not know yet so that's sort of what we are right now the president himself. Has a meeting this afternoon at 215. With the Baltic presidents. It was -- previously scheduled meeting that's the only time we'll see him. The insight were being given there is that perhaps he will indeed speak about Syria in remarks to the pool cameras at that time. -- -- be watching mess of -- some a couple of developments happening today. Also today we do expect that intelligence reports. To be sent over to congress that's the classified version. And an unclassified version. Non classified version will be turned over to the public. And the press this afternoon we'll get more insight. Into the government's case the United States government's case -- to why action is needed to respond to the chemical weapons used by the Syrian government. So Jim I want to talk about Britain's role in just a minute and as well as the international community at large but first second don't wanna talk a little bit about this -- is taking place right now. For the major players in the room at the White House. Melissa the National Security Council -- -- of course Susan Rice is there she's the national security advisor. -- teleconference we believe. The secretary of defense is there -- Chuck Hagel. We know that John Kerry is there we saw him walk in the secretary of state and then other members including the the White House staff -- are involved along with the -- members of the military are also involved and the president we understand. Is also in the meeting. Today and then of course waiting for that news conference by the secretary of state himself a little bit later on this afternoon. Did you -- -- talk a little bit about Britain's role then that tough debate as you had alluded to at the top that close vote that we saw yesterday and parliament and then this morning. Almost an apology of sorts from the prime minister David Cameron and I want to I want to play -- -- for that. -- no way does the opposition motion even beginning to point the finger of blame president -- That is that all of us with what has been said by -- President Obama and every European and -- -- -- -- I've spoken to. There is an enormous amount of open source reporting there is an enormous amount of videos we can see there's the fact. We know that the regime has an enormous arsenal the fact they've used it before the fact they were attacking that area. And then with the opposition of course there's the fact they don't have those weapons they don't have the delivery systems and the attack took place is an area which they wed themselves holding. We didn't Gallup -- the evidence over the coming. -- parts of persuading. The international community and people in this country of president Assad's culpability and I think that's important. This happiness -- basic point. To proceed decision not decision to proceed evidence I had these. The ice to the -- to want to be seventy soon the most of the left. 295. -- a. That the honorable gentleman makes an extremely important point right -- government and we should be proud of this tax in this country of the massive role. Aid agencies and British aid money. And so Jim the question I wanna post you that it is Britain completely off the table considering the fact that they are the closest ally. Sides of the US. While the prime minister said that that he has heard the will of the people in the will of -- British parliament. And that the government would act accordingly and that resolution. Was rejected so it does appear for now in the US government has conceded. It does appear for now that Britain is off the table as far as helping in any kind of military strike. But it's -- is that forever no we don't we don't believe that could be forever. If the UN takes this -- that there is some kind of UN resolution. If there's any kind of information from the UN inspectors that would -- could help persuade the real British parliament there could be another vote. There could be different action for right now they're off the table and and that's sort of what and -- that may all be too late because the United States government may take action on its own. Before Britain goes gets around to voting again and before other developments happen. We're being told that that's kind of debate you just heard. From Britain is the kind of debate that's going on in the White House as well at the White House is trying to balance a couple of things right now. About the timing of this attack the White House is trying to President Obama is trying to -- -- whether or not he loses more support by waiting. Loses more countries would have whatever countries are are still supporting some kind of military action. If he waits longer. If a road if they have for a public opinion in this country if in congress. To support begins to erode even further if he waits longer. Or should he. Strike right now before. That. Support for roads now he has to balance that we're told with his own personal beliefs stated over many years as -- candidate. And as president that he preferred not to go along. So he is and he would prefer to wait and and get. -- support that he -- could call this some kind of international coalition. But the those those with two things that are tugging at him right now and we just don't know which way he's going to go perhaps we'll know in the next few days. -- we will certainly did find that out as well we've been seeing kind of a relationship of the White House has been having and trying to navigate between its. Interaction and sharing of intelligence with congress and I know that members of congress spoke with the White House yesterday in a teleconference. What was the take away there I mean we're expecting more interaction between the two. Yes that's -- continue. -- interaction the White House emphasizes they've been talking to congress and said the beginning since we first learned of this attack. In in Syria. They have been talking with the speaker Boehner the president spoke personally with speaker John Boehner yesterday on the telephone. They held that teleconference you're talking about late yesterday it did not reveal any kind of any kind of classified intelligence in that discussion. And the reason for that is because it was on the telephone and and because congress is not in session. They they're up all over the country they called and none of them on the White House line and unsecured lines on the thing. Nothing classified could be released. Now today. There's going to be some more information that's released in some of that will be classified. And we'll be allowed to be seen by some members of congress who run committees and intelligence and armed services who have clearances. So they'll be more and more talk going on with congress the take away from that we got from last night -- teleconference. Not many minds were changed. Most. People through most of the people in congress that we've heard from. Actually support. Some kind of action some kind of response from Syria -- they did before this teleconference they do afterwards. What the debate about has been about is whether is how much consultation. The president must have with car was not what really should be done. But how much consent station that the president needs to get. From congress this what's been sort of look in house. Kind of a battle political turf battle going on not so much about what should be done but how it should be done. That's happening now whether or not congress should take a vote there's some who believes. Believe that the president should wait. Until. Until congress -- back in session after Labor Day. Put it to a vote and then -- The president does not that says that he does not have to wait for that prevent of course timing always been -- a major factor in those kind of decisions generous. Eyewitness the White House but I wanna bring in our panel now by my -- the -- Steve Simon. Now head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies he worked as when a president Obama's top national security advisors during the president's first term. And in Washington chemical weapons expert and senior fellow at the James Martin center for non proliferation -- studies Amy Smithson. Also in Cairo Rami jarrah a Syrian activists and citizen journalists who live in -- country until 2011 -- was when he was forced to flee. Steve I -- -- start with you because obviously we've been talking about this as far as weather is a question of if and if it is a question of and beyond yet how. An attack might happen. Well obvious question I think it's pretty much a foregone conclusion I think the president. Has been too far out there to turn back at this point -- can really only move. Forward so I think some strike against targets in Syria is fait accompli it will happen. The when. Is even. Even then not so much really -- debate because. Once you've been this far out they are saying that there would be some kind of response. Waiting. A long period of time between you're going out there are making that point and -- actually doing something -- leaves room for mischief. Leaves room for things to go wrong. And some things of course have already gone wrong one was. -- of the debacle really in London. Over British involvement and then there's also. Domestic and foreign. Concerns about the nature of the intervention what will accomplish all that's I think if you really want to short circuit. -- that kind of debate that can we can you over the long run you might as well go sooner rather than later. -- you just talked about that about what you can accomplish in the fact matters that the White House said that if in fact strategy is put out there he would be discreet so with that kind of parameter what can be accomplished with. Win with a discreet approach. Well I think you know the president is probably looking at two objectives. 01. But he is a very very specific and -- -- doing whatever he thinks is necessary to deter the Syrian government from using. Chemical weapons again. That's a discrete objective. It's an identifiable one and there are certain concrete things you can do to try and achieve that objective -- has a larger one. Which is reassuring very nervous allies about how the United States would respond in a contingency involving they -- interest. And -- just to give two examples in the South Koreans are pretty nervous and they are looking. At what the United States is gonna do in Syria as a kind of litmus test for what the United States would do to defend itself against some aggression. From North Korea the Israelis for their part. Are concerned about what the United States will ultimately do about proliferation in Iran. And there are looking at how the US. Takes on this use of CW in Syria. As some indicator. Of what the United States would do in fact contingency obviously it's a complicated issue involving many countries but if you Kennedy. Give us a brief history lesson if you would about the factions within -- area. We'll -- It's a brutal civil war. On the one side there's really one faction. And that's probably not a bad word for it and that's the -- white community they constitute most of them. Government and those leadership of the armed forces. And they -- -- the paramilitary. Units that have been so. Effective in helping the army retain control. Of the parts of Syria that the that the regime. Still holds sway over so there were all -- whites they -- they have sort of a form of Islam. It's -- some elements of christianity built into it. It's it's a very unorthodox form of Islam and many other Muslims still regard them as genuine. Most -- so you have that section and on the other hand. You have a mix. Ordinary people and not from a different faction different. A reading of Islam their Sony's. And he. They launched a political revolt. Not a religious one it was a political one but it's all taken on sectarian. -- -- even within. That opposition. Zero or different streams. Some of them are in fact very radical Islamic. Factions. That aren't so different from the al-Qaeda. That the United States and other countries have been battling over the past. A decade or more and then you have moderates involved too. So it's kind of you know a rainbow coalition of -- and you know put it that way. More wide variety there any I want to bring you into this because on the issue of chemical weapons and the UN inspectors now. Wrapping up their work in Syria what exactly are they looking for right now on this last day. Well first and foremost they're looking for weapons fragments when -- on the east side of the attacks. Because if they get samples out of weapons fragments or -- their weapons themselves have unique markings that might be. Different from the markings that are on conventional rounds. Then they'll start to have some pretty concrete evidence. -- not only who sent weapon to the site but also of what the weapon contained. They'll do an analysis of the samples taken with a -- -- matter -- mass spectrometer which can pinpoint what chemicals were inside these munitions. In at this point of course we have a pretty good understanding that it's the Asad regime. That has rocket and missile delivery systems. At the ready not only a chemical arsenal. And that is the rebels they just simply there -- -- do it yourself rocket stage. So already there are a number of hallmarks out there that indicate this was an attack executed. By the Asad regime. The other hallmarks from someone who has studied their fair share of chemical warfare doctrine are that this attack was executed in the wee hours of the morning. That's when doctrine holds that it's best to execute chemical attack because the winds are very mild -- modest. In the temperatures are lowest in excuse me their very cool at that time. In this is what's gonna make big -- it's delivered to a target stay on the target. In contrast -- a -- chemical warfare -- to try to attack in the middle of the day. And that's when the winds -- -- literally take the gas off the site so -- -- a lot of things pointing to the -- machine before the samples -- ever back. If any -- wanted to ask you about this eighteen do we read into anything about the actual timing of these that the inspectors were on the ground there. Syria had -- -- an invitation for them to stay in fact until Sunday. -- can you wrap up that kind of work in four days to get in definitive answer. I'm not sure -- -- definitive answers will come out of this particular investigation although in previous investigations. There have been twelve that had been conducted the inspectors actually did identify the perpetrators are and in some cases. They cleared -- those that were accused of using chemical weapons. So there -- times actually -- evidence also hangs around for quite an extended period of time after an attack. In the case of the Saddam Hussein's attack against a lot -- in 1988. In a group from Physicians for Human Rights went to the site for years later -- took samples. Which were sent to Britain's top biological and chemical defense facility. -- the samples very clearly showed Trace elements of mustard gas. And nerve agents so let's not tell inspectors out let's also not count on them to perhaps do the impossible. Since these sites of the attacks sites have been bombed repeatedly by the Asad regime. In the interim between now in the 21. And it is going to be difficult for -- to pinpoint. Culpability but hopefully they will come out of there was some evidence loop which -- shed light on what's happened inning as it. I'm sorry go ahead. I was gonna speak to the timing of these attacks -- people are perplexed about why do it when the United Nations and investigators are in town. If your leader in -- trying to demoralize your opposition what better time to pull off an attack. Then to kill their feelings quite frankly in the middle -- -- while they're sleeping. It one can -- -- interviews -- Syrian civilians in the aftermath of this. Horrific series of events and they are completely frightened that this will happen again. So if that was the instant and success well beyond perhaps -- -- expected. How complicated. Are the mechanisms. To deliver this kind of chemical weapons attack because obviously there's a lot of discussion. About whether in fact it was the Asad regime had carried out these attacks. Well in the case of -- is saying we know that he delegated launch authority to his commanders in the field. Prior to both -- both conflicts. In 21991. And in 2003. Because. He wasn't sure that communications would. Remain open. And there's actual documentation of this. And if one wants a peek inside of the mind. A person who's cornered as Saddam Hussein was certainly in 2003. All you need do is look at the captured records from that war where Saddam Hussein is saying before the 1991 war. When asked what school which one of his biological weapons delivery systems -- agency wanted to use his reply was simply use the mall. A written report about this is called ugly truths. -- this Stephen is a possible and -- the rebels have this kind of capability. Well I'm not really. What the rebels have is inconsistent with what we've seen on YouTube and other videos. The rebels do. Fabricate rockets calm but they're sort of flying pipe bombs -- nothing. Nearly as sophisticated as what appears to be in the -- that coming out of Syria. And Amy the British government revealed that fourteen chemical attacks have occurred in that Syrian conflict and you heard something similar. Of those numbers. I'm sorry I didn't realize the questions being posed to me. The first time I heard that number was actually from prime minister -- and in his. Statements yesterday. There have been a number of attacks that have made public. That have been reported publicly. All of these were smaller scale and their vast differences between what happened. On the 21 in previous chemical evidence in -- previous events because it was so small scale. One could. Postulate that perhaps -- -- was testing the waters foolishly. The testing the waters are perhaps the rebels. Had released some type of the chemical even on their own. Because they understand. That the Asad regime is widely understood to have a chemical arsenal and wanted to cast suspicion on. In the third possibility there was that perhaps the conventional bomb had fallen near a facility that had chemicals. Might have ruptured tank in their four released -- a toxic cloud. So there events of the 21 with multiple simultaneous attacks rocket as the delivery system. It's just all pointing back to be -- regime. And -- just before we let you go want to ask you that the timing of this and the rarity of this what -- the last time a chemical weapons such as this has been reviews on the stage. By -- -- national actor the last attack was on the 20 march 1995. By the terrorist group on -- Keogh which believes in her release of nerve -- -- -- and on Tokyo's subways. Prior to that it was a fairly widespread use during the Iran Iraq War of the 1980s in most infamous -- Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds in march of 1988. And -- option. Sorry Amy thank you for assisting state and wanted to ask you why was there in a response to that attack -- -- Because the context. That it it was in the middle order to actually towards the end of the war between Iraq and Iran. You -- at that point was already. A very serious adversary of the United States. The US was providing. Support. Four this Saddam Hussein government in it and helping it waged its war. Against -- wrong and I think in that bigger strategic framework. There was no interest in Washington. In pressing. The Iraqis on their use of chemical weapons -- club -- -- or punishing them for use could that have -- emboldened. Aside. To make this kind of use of a weapon. No I think look there's a clear parallel in that you have. A leader. Who uses this terror weapon against domestic adversaries so you have a parallel there. But I would be surprised if -- serious we're looking back. That far to that incident. Two. You know -- as a tea leaf. I think they just thought they were gonna get away with it because -- They had protection and they had serious protection in the form of a Russian ally who could be counted on to block. Action in the UN -- it -- it is widely thought or had been. -- that a UN Security Council authorization would be required. For the west to use force against Syria. So I think. -- and you know had good reason perhaps to think that he. Get away with this he obviously this calculates. To me a little bit about the relationship that the US and Syria have had because you wrote an article about a meeting that then secretary of state Colin Powell had with a sawed in 2005. Trying to get a sides regime support behind the bush plan. Four mideast peace process. Will beer there was. Colin -- -- At that time in. It whisk -- interest -- because the Syrians. Were terrified. That the United States was on the verge of doing to them what the United States have just done to the Saddam Hussein Hussein regime. In time in Baghdad. Regrettably. The United States compressed an advantage because. Shortly thereafter things began to go kind of sour for the United States and -- -- In the US position near became the battles and the outcome looked a bit -- -- for a while I think at that point the Syrians. Took heart. Assuming that will you know the United States was to such trouble in Iraq he wouldn't seek more trouble. By picking a fight with Syria. Jim and I wanted to bring you back at from from the White House because the fact the matter is is that a lot of people have been talking at this in -- could be echoes. Other rock what is the White House's response -- The White House is. Pushed back very strongly on any comparison to Iraq they say first of -- the in this case this is a surgical strike we're not invading the country we don't we are trying to effect a regime change. -- this particular. Events. So this is totally different. They also say that. The -- -- visit is is quite different that -- this is not. This is not building a case to invade a country in and take somebody down. The the effort. To take down -- side. It is is in fact a separate parallel effort. But it's not going to be used to them and that the military will not be the united states military will not be used to try to effect that. All right Jim bobbled the White House Jim thank you for that I want to bring in now Rami jarrah via Skype from Cairo Rami is -- Syrian activists and co director of the -- -- a new media association which. Works with and citizen journalists to verify events in conflict zones from -- thank you for your time today. I wanted to ask about them what are your more recent tweets about fifty hours ago you tweeted the worst is yet to come in Syria. -- to be to be totally honest what's most acute -- These situations since the attack took place on the 21 -- this month. Has become. Terrific in in many ways. G altar area in in Damascus in which is a bunch of various actually inhabitants about one point four million civilians. They're all ought to shouldn't opposing forces to Assad deployed in those areas but those areas the majority of those areas do -- civilians. I'd just -- just want to jump to one point in on the -- group who committed this crime. -- -- Syrian inside the country we we see -- That the Syrian regime has in no money used. This video footage which the government itself has confirmed that this attracted to place but that it wasn't done by the regime but these videos have not been. On Syrian state TV. This is to prevent any solidarity. From Syrians across the country winds its Syrians in the in the interior I think that's -- on that's one aspect -- -- and saying that the government. Did commit this crime because they refused to how any -- -- -- with those people in that area. Plus the fact that the important area has become embarrassing situation -- the government because it is a rebel controlled area and it's been waived for many months almost a year -- Making civilians leave that area and then -- that is what's happening at the moment there of civilians fleeing the area. Two neighboring neighboring areas the government continues to show even since then even while that you. Inspectors moved into those areas to inspect Fargo to govern the -- the Syrian government continues to show the other is just avoiding the ones. That the -- -- at the time. Now when I say the worst is yet to come. I think that it. The statements that are coming from the White House and trauma of countries that feel responsible -- in somewhat -- -- but the situation in Syria. To make these statements -- statements and then to hesitate. This is only empowering us over the past few days the Syrian regime has begun moving military equipment large military -- -- -- -- I don't know what. What equipment business but that equipment is being moved around inside. Residential areas and that being -- there and that -- that they -- -- human shields I think the longer this goes on. To make a statement like dark and normal to see any action is only empowering the -- -- And -- -- -- -- -- terrify you that if something doesn't happen this is Assad telling its people. But there is no -- -- and initially I think -- you can we can talk was was it's our message Steve I want to get just. -- on that about that comment about the Red Line being drawn from facts chemical weapons were used in Syria. Will -- you the president has made it clear at this point that he us going to send the signal that he thinks will deter further use. -- so. You know the Red Line is going to be enforced at least this is what they're saying and we expect. You know him to carry. Through with that. I think that the regime is feeling very confident. Because. You know there are a host of signals coming out of Washington because of perhaps an unprecedented number of the you know leaks on the nature of this of this operation impending. Operation to suggest that. The objectives. In the scope of the military operation will be very narrow will be really you know confined. And that raises the concern I think. Among some in for and probably among many Syrians. That asset will feel as though he can ride this out he can absorb the blow. And then claimed that he stood up to the United States. Deter. It up abstain from the use of chemical weapons to avoid a repeat attack. But continue well all the other aspects of his military operations in this in this civil war and I think you know if he were. To do that he he wouldn't it -- someone empowered. As a -- and you have stood against the Asad regime for years now. Is that -- he ought to Syria. Where you've been working. Sorry -- confused -- -- -- you bet against the in the Asad regime. Years. And is that what drove you out of the country. Yes yes in my case it's like urging -- -- -- over the two million Syrians who have actually. Because going to be wanted by the government. Children as its youngest is fifteen years old and want to by the government and how to lead in the -- -- it's hard to -- The country I just I just want the -- to -- to something in regards to an intervening in Syria. And intervening from from the internal security is not something that's popular among -- it's not an aspiration of the Syrian people but the situation. Does that we have written -- has become so horrific eye on the Syrian government has continued to use psychological fear factor in this camera Qatar is an -- -- and -- that I -- commit these crimes. And I would not be -- before it. The idea of just punishing us out tree using chemical weapons I think this just -- -- more destruction that could be seen in the Middle East. The Syrian government has been very clear it. But all -- statements that it will cools -- -- -- at least I think they have very the very intent on doing the longer -- in Powell. The more capable of doing. It -- the fact of the boxer is among Syrians today there is the morale. A defeat that we -- witnessing -- people believed that the US is incapable. Of taking this action and I think that element -- It's is not going to help on the -- -- even at this attack is committed by. The rebels the people local Rell has been Smart if -- -- truck is only to take or progress that the using chemical weapons. Initially I have to be told you this personal well I'll consult our concern is to stop particularly its across the country and most of these killings will not commit to -- chemical. It's so given that sentiment by the Syrian people there did they want to hear regime change from the White House because the White House has been very adamant to say. At that in fact would not be any objective. If a military strategy were to -- in place. I don't want to felt like -- just attraction. And I'm very thankful for any hope that that's been been offered by the US. But. That there is a hypocrite language. Not wanting to she -- change even though there is a lot of support. And a lot of money that comes from from the US and a lot of cooperation -- -- opposition groups to see -- change in Syria. -- I think what what we need in Syria is more direct language. More direct action. The situation in Syria is well an ethical and the Syrian government has never used common sense -- I think international regulations will international little is the solution in Syria I don't think bait parliament vote. And in in the UK is one that concede. Not -- to success book injustice incident I think what what is required is a step out of line because that's exactly what the -- in regions -- Has done and that's exactly what. Does -- opened -- -- rehearsal for including Russia and -- in the countries that actually support this and -- what we require is something more consistent more directs. The. Arab League has blamed the Asad regime for the chemical attacks. Does that give the US more leverage than for a strike in your opinion. -- I don't think that the the US. Waits to troops receive support from from the Arab League I think that the hesitation and it is what -- It's capable of doing and these statements that came from the city in -- That they are they welcome this time and that they will defend themselves. I think that. Elements thing we will defend ourselves could mean a lot of things that could mean possible it could mean. Iran it could mean Russia's. Indirect involvement. I really believed that Syria is it is that the states -- believe that Syria has. And an ability to -- A regional war. And I know that makes it sound like -- -- that should not be any intervention but the longer this goes. I think the more capable -- Suzie -- -- is of of causing. Program -- stay with us but Steve I wanna get your thoughts on a point that that -- had just made and that was that that there could be a disconnect between what the US is done financially and what the US might do militarily. For the Syrians. For the Syrian people. Well look I don't think it's so much of of mismatch over a short circuit really I think these are parallel. Activities because on the one hand you have would. The administration. Or reports on administration decisions. Relating to Covert action. The supply of weapons and equipment. Other things of that kind to opposition forces. You have the US cooperation with cut -- in the saudis who have been putting. Very significant -- Amounts of weapons into Syria and you have -- significant. US program to develop. The ability of local revolutionary councils in areas in Syria from which. Regime power has receded helping them govern the areas that they now. Control that they've taken away from the Rashean so there's a lot going on in that sphere. And ultimately it's aimed at creating some kind of new Syria. And that Syria would not include -- OK so that's happening on that side you know on the on the other side you have this nonproliferation. Issue and I think we can't lose sight of that there is enormous international norm. You know you could kill people in a lot of different ways but one way you can't kill them -- with chemical weapons. You know that's the norm and it's an established norm. And the thing about these these norms these traditions. And this is now -- legal tradition internationally is that somebody's got to enforce it. If it's not enforced what's to stop others from using -- in the same circumstances. Against their own people or internationally. What have you. And as it is you know the United States is if I can be course you know its stake in the United States is the Stuckey. You know for this kind of thing and because the United States has an interest in enforcing and preserving a certain. Global order. Certain rules of the road you know that serve United States' interest in a lot of ways in the interest of its allies so you know. It's got that interest in doing it -- also got the means because as we know from looking at what's just happened in Britain in the talk about French involvement and so forth. When it comes down to it it's just the United States that has the military capability to enforce the norm. And you know this is what in the US is you know stuck with right now and I think the administration just looked at this -- -- -- You know the diocese can't walk away from this something it's got to be done. But you know. Were already pursuing the regime change piece of that in essence in another channel. That from the administration's perspective. Doesn't settle the United States with ownership of the problem. You know for the next half a century or how -- long it'll take for Syria to reconstitute itself after what will be what will have been a really terrible. War so I think you know for the United States you know this really tested. Beasts and in the current. Issue really has to be a non proliferation issue. And the president has been really really clear about this in one of the interesting things. Dead. And contrast did you know that what the president has been saying with what prime minister Cameron said in the initial debate. In comments in British parliament. Is is this camera and made a connection between military strikes. For non proliferation reasons and and the possibility that these strikes would open the door to a political process. That might end the conflict in Syria. In up negotiated fashion which obviously didn't help the White House and it make its case and in the White House is. Isn't gonna go there hasn't gone there they're really sticking to. Chemical weapons rationale. Which also enables the united -- to justify military action on the basis of self defense. And not on other disputed. Rationales. Like the protection of endangered civilian populations. Rami. Your organization. Helps get information from countries that suppress the media so what are you hearing then. From those inside Syria right now. People terrified. And it's it's -- that hesitation to rule all the statements that we hearing. Leaving people especially in in Damascus to contact. On what's going to happen of the next few days. The Syrian -- is making the level of preparation. For what they expect to be guitar. -- that -- moving at a military equipment and shoot civilian. Residential areas this is needed this is pushing people to actually leave those areas. The situation inside the the that this the -- we've that in some regions in some areas of the the country. That this is -- it that the -- -- actually bridges. But I think that this is obvious that there that that it -- there was a lot of preparation and a lot of the video -- -- has -- coming serial. Over the past few days is to point out -- -- we know that Syrian state television actually set -- in new broad costing location. Because they worry that that -- -- original location might be disconnected. I'm Syrian media is that main element that is used by the government to keep supporters. To reassure them that everything's OK and the government is in -- -- Powell salute most of the video footage we've been seeing over the past few days. In -- -- in addition to the fact that the government has been trying to. Destroy any evidence of the chemical talking -- so -- -- what I know that there is in the in the intelligence report -- hope that that's going to be something. It involves. An officer in the army who actually says. That this was supposed to be a small scale -- around it it got out of -- We actually on the grounds there a number of sources that actually prove them as well because these missiles were launched from the same location they -- -- -- full. That with the -- usually comes from. And exit to Syrians are actually able to -- -- at the -- to be sure that it was a government committed to because state. Altitude years of witnessing -- and you you actually sought to gain some experience of understanding where those those rockets to flight from. That's just and because there are different areas -- actually speak to each of -- connected to each of and the areas that -- that the rockets were fired from have actually been identified by civilians. -- -- For how the information supposedly hostile to the UN the Syrian government isn't allowing UN inspectors to to go just anywhere -- allowing them to go to the honorees were hit. Not the other is that the that we think the rockets were launched from I think if they with the head. And that would be substantial evidence to play on the same religion as committing this crime. I and I wanted to ask you about this and -- obviously -- in a very vocal critic of the Asad regime have you ever been approached by the government either and it. Recent days or the past weeks as this has become more intense. When we get there all. I don't say that this was so this wasn't directed written statement that was soon. And officials in the Syrian government. As soon as a chemical attack -- Trace. That actually started to try and connect with the opposition. Because they want to defect. But this is something that we say seen since the beginning of the uprising where -- -- where and when when when everything gets into amassed more people want to leave the region. Those people want welcomed this time because they were. Very much involved in the crackdown in the beginning stages. In towns of anyone -- to me directly into -- and witnessed anything. All right Rami -- and Kyra -- thank you for your time is -- how does al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. Fit into this. Well you know they're sort of you know matching. But the matching gruesome. Book ends. To the political spectrum. On the one hand Lebanese Hezbollah. Which. Was once referred to by. US deputy secretary of state as the a team of terrorism. Is heavily engaged in Syria -- they were mobilized by Iran which is their patron. And that they are Shiite. Which is to say they're from the opposite end of the Islamic. Religious spectrum from al-Qaeda. Which is. Very -- lead Sony. And these these two groups are really sworn enemies and and the thing is that they typified. The wide range. Certainly on the opposition side of sentiment which ranges from moderate to. You know murderous Lee. Radical like al-Qaeda in then on the other side. You know the in the inclusion of his -- line. Gives the regime not only added ideological. Impetus but it gives it a very serious military capability that it otherwise would have -- And I'll just conclude on this point by saying that it's. These two radical elements on each side al-Qaeda on the one and his -- on the other. That hit imparted the real military Jews to their respective sides. I want to bring in our political director Rick Klein. Who was in Washington DC to talk about the debate that obviously is going on inside the White House right now and it Rick specifically. I want to talk about the fact that President Obama as spoke about the Iraq War as quote a dumb war. Is there being a comparison that he is having to fight off then about this intent on Syria. It's a remarkable evolution in the space of a decade at the very least he is. Very much fighting back at that comparison as you -- in this case respond to a specific series of events as opposed to. Allegations and intelligence surrounding stockpiles of weapons. But of course it is -- critical comparison because you had a president who. Laid out a standard that was very -- for the president's United States when he was a candidate for office when he was the United States senator. To be able to launch -- unilateral attack and attack without. Congressional authorization and attack without international authorization and at the time he said he was pretty clear on it back in 2007. He said in west it was an imminent threat of attack on the United States that the president. It would not have the authority to do that his -- for is now as vice president is that a candidate also Joseph Biden went even further. At -- point he said he would lead a charge to impeach George W. Bush if he launched the unilateral attack. On -- -- so the fact that these guys are now on the inside inside intelligence briefings having to deal with a red line that the new president. -- himself drew and wrestling with these questions of congressional authority. Of international authority. And a public opinion when he will have none of those things on his side he will not have the public he will not have the congress he will not have. The international community through the United Nations it is an it is a remarkable turnabout and and a vexing problem for White House that has -- now explain. Why we appear to begin a military strike without authority from congress. Rick let me ask you this and we make any kind of assumption that the White House might -- responding to that red line comment when they came out with them slightly modified -- by saying. It would have to be a systematic use of chemical weapons. Today. -- comment if you look at the context -- at the end at a press conference that -- all manner of other issues including the presidential campaign. A roughly a year ago and newstalk over the state of affairs in Syria and that offhand comment according to is a -- later spoke to. Media outlets when a little further than even the White House thought the president would go so that he was on record saying that. They did spend a good amount of time kind of -- that red line have been other incidents other attacks. That they have said -- not cross that and the president has hedged slightly on it but it is that self imposed red line that his constrain the president and we've heard this -- from some Republican members of congress. That what boxes United States in right now is that comet by our -- president the fact that the president United States is on the record saying the use of chemical weapons is a red line. Necessitates -- response and that's what we're hearing from a number of folks on Capitol Hill. If you don't do something now the signal is to the whole international community the president's word doesn't mean anything so that's one of the things that he has the factor in right now. President Obama himself on the record saying this is you can back it up. Obviously trying to get the buying from congress congress briefed yesterday on the intelligence at the White House had who was satisfied with the information that they got last night. Interestingly democratic and Republican leaders agree on this one point which is that they are happy with the cooperation and consultation they've gotten so far and they are -- Actually willing to give the president pretty wide latitude. -- announcing his activity before doing anything about it. With the people that aren't satisfied -- this strange coalition of libertarians and liberals Democrats and Republicans -- -- are increasingly saying we need to have him come to congress. Four authorities you had some harsh critics of the president actually in both parties saying this isn't enough we need to slow things down we need to bring it to congress we need to make sure this is justified. But at this stage at least. The top Democrats and Republicans speaker Boehner and majority minority leader Pelosi and in the senate McConnell and Reid as the minority and majority leader's. They are not rushing to get congress back to Washington they're gonna let the president. Have some wiggle room house -- authority here do what he's gonna do and then wrestle with those issues and about ten days when congress is back in town. And what -- public opinion because again as we've been mentioning before. Iraq has been brought up your rightfully or wrongfully so but still it is -- and it's brought into the public debate there how does the American public feel about a possible invasion and Syria. We got the first glimpse of this today -- uphold it. Not just today is a matter of fact and I happen of this clear majority of the of the American people say they oppose any military action now the questions didn't really drill down that much -- limited airstrikes. Verses vs other options like boots on the ground. But the point was made and even more striking 80%. Told pollsters that they feel like the president. Has to go to congress first and that clearly is not something that's happening we're moving inside a window -- congress isn't even in Washington to debate the issue. It's different than the British situation where the parliament yesterday rejected even not by -- basis there's no mechanism for that right now so the public does not to appear to be on board. The sentiments of -- -- kind of pervade this poll. If the fact that we are sick of as a country of Middle Eastern wars of entanglements of getting involved in conflicts will we don't have a direct stake -- explain to the American people. That is -- perceptions right now and you're gonna have the president who is not acting with a clear mandate of the American people. Well yesterday the white house of that that the declassified report would be released to the public. And Josh Earnest speaking at the podium yesterday's and that there in fact would be differences obviously between the declassified the classified reports. When do we know when that -- report will be made public. The expectation is still this afternoon we don't have. To come out and talk a little bit about what's new and we expect the White House to follow it. Folks who -- -- -- plugged into this community say not to get too excited about what's going to be and it -- there have been numerous leaked details already. And beyond that there's going to be significant portions of it that aren't included and even beyond that the the expectation has leaked to reporters in advance is that there is no smoking gun not to expect something that directly at ties that ties a Solder the Asad regime to use of chemical weapons a lot of circumstantial evidence. That is that it would even know what else capable of it perhaps but not the really the really juicy stuff that would make this in a -- slam dunk to borrow a phrase from another war. We -- it exactly the remnants of of 2003 what are the fact of losing an ally in the UK France though he's still on board. Yeah I think that that the British situation is a blow and to have the prime minister have to apologize publicly to present a bomb on this he gets that message from his homeland. That would have been a critical piece of any coalition that we build we we've worked. Extensively with the British before not having them on board is something that that the -- opposition to military action is going to -- ought to say. They have it right the -- situation of course increasingly interest thing -- -- where we're just a decade removed from freedom Fries and have them on board for a military action Nazis people. On line saying that the last time the US and France work together militarily with approximately 1776. And this is striking out. Stephen I wanna bring into that. That -- -- that kind of sentiment on that this France's support does it does it help sway public opinion make a decision on the White House any easier. I don't think -- have a huge show intact you know I'm sure it wouldn't be spurned. You know by the White House but it won't be decisive in any way militarily. And I don't think it -- much in terms of public opinion although Americans. Have. Traditionally. Been more open to support military operations that were. Coalition operations. In part because the presence of other countries gives them some confidence that their own government knows what it's doing. Because it's managed to convince other governments stood to kind of get on the bandwagon. So it's it's always a bit disturbing when that. Confirmation when that validation isn't forthcoming from other. Capitals. Within the region. The administration and I think it's generally thought that if there are more countries involved in the attack. And to the extent that people don't like the idea of this kind of western intervention at least the blame is spread out a little bit it's not just an American thing but. People can turn their higher against others as well Britain France or or whomever. Now the -- the president yes as others have said including our White House correspondent. Had been insisting. On a multi -- venture. For a long time he'd made that this -- -- in the real condition. For doing this so what we're looking at now with something of a reversal but it's a reversal born of necessity. I think the the mismanagement of this. Issue in Britain by prime minister Cameron. Came as quite a surprise quite a serious blow. The president in and prime minister Cameron had been working up pretty closely together on this. Well almost up until. Camera and found out that he was gonna get -- you know by this debate. So. In the UK so what was the driving factor -- for the president of France aligned. To show his support and allegiance the United States wasn't about regime change or was -- about as the White House has been -- to hold accountable those international standards. Yet the French. Have been endorsing. Pumps a muscular kind of intervention in the Syrian conflict. Four. The years -- nearly. You know the two years since the conflict began. So there's an impulse there to do something to get in indicate their hands dirty some have now. They haven't really found a way to do it thus far. This would be a way for them to express themselves can put it that way. On the Syria issue. What do you make of the fact that there has been continual shelling in Damascus and then obviously following these chemical attacks there. He is and is it a separate approach perhaps by the by the Syrian government. Well there a couple of ways to look at it one is of that in the past. It incidents that we know of for example like the attack against that Iraqi Kurdish village -- luncheon that he -- listen. And you referred to earlier that a chemical attacks then were accompanied. By. Artillery attacks in part because it creates a lot of confusion on the -- as to what's going on. And in part because it makes it harder to recover evidence abuse because you know you're turning the place into rubble. And that might be one of the reasons the Syrians are doing. More or less the same thing now. I wanted to ask a little bit about maybe the timing and perhaps maybe some of the factors that might go into the decision making process about some kind of an attack. As the upcoming G-20 summits. Does that play any kind of role and what the White House might be doing. Look I think -- At this point is going to be awkward if the president and -- and wind up sitting next to each other the big dinner at the G-20 one when it's what they'll talk about. But I don't think that the impending. G-20 summit is a factor. Except in terms perhaps of the president's travel schedule. I mean. There are other more compelling reasons to get this thing over and done with. Sooner rather than later and what its interest in that she's safe to get it over Dallas sooner rather than later is there. That kind of mentality and that kind of hope within the White House. That it would be a swift that it would be up quick operation. Well I eat you know the concept of operations since it's been outlined in various statements and leaks coming into the administration. Suggests a fairly short sharp. Attack. Using you know all right -- weapons aren't we are not gonna go to the treaty room where secretary of state John Kerry is at the podium. President Obama has spent many days consulting with congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in Syria. And last night the president passed all of us on his national security team. To consult with the leaders of congress as well. Including the leadership. Congressional national security committees. And he asked us consult about what we know. Regarding the horrific chemical weapons attack. In the Damascus suburbs last week. I would tell you that as someone who spent nearly three decades in the United States congress. I know that that consultation is the right way for president. Had to approach -- decision of when and now and if to use military force. As important to ask the tough questions. And get the tough answers before taking action not just afterwards. And I believe as President Obama does that it is also important. To discuss this directly with the American people. That's our responsibility. To talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us. In the administration and the congress with responsibility. For their security. That's why this morning's release of our government's. Unclassified. Estimate of what took place in Syria is so important. Its findings. Are as clear as they are compelling and I'm not asking you to take my word for. Read for yourself. Every one. Those listening. All of you read for yourselves the evidence. From thousands of sources. Evidence that is already publicly available. And read for yourselves the verdict. Reached by our intelligence community about the chemical weapons attack. The Assad regime inflicted on the opposition. And on opposition controlled or contested neighborhoods. In the Damascus suburbs. On the early morning of August 21. Our intelligence community has carefully. Reviewed. And re review information regarding this attack. And I will tell you it has done so more than mindful. Of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly we have taken unprecedented steps. To declassify and make facts available to people who can judge for themselves. But still. In order to protect sources and methods. Some of what we know. Will only. Be released to members of congress. The representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know. We can't talk about publicly. So what do we really know that we can talk about. Well. We know that the Assad regime. Has the largest chemical weapon weapons program. In the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons. Multiple times this year. And is used them on a smaller scale. But still it is used them against its own people. Including not very far from where last Wednesday's attack happened. We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition. And it was frustrated. That it hadn't succeeded in doing so. We know that for three days before the attack. The Syrian regime's chemical weapons personnel. Were on the ground. In the area. Making preparations. And we know that the Syrian regime elements. We're told to prepare for the attack. By putting on gas masks and taking precautions. Associated with chemical weapons. We know. That these were specific instructions. We know where the rockets were launched from. And at what time. We don't where they land. And win. We -- rockets came only from regime controlled areas. And went only. Two opposition controlled or contested neighborhoods. And we know as does the world. That just ninety minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media. -- -- -- -- eyes we have seen. That thousands of reports from eleven separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All. Show and report victims. Would breathing difficulties. People twitching with spasms -- rapid heartbeats foaming at the mouth on consciousness. And death. And we know. It was ordinary. Syrian. Citizens. Who reported all of these horrors. And just as important. We know. What the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn't reports. Not a scratch. Not -- shrapnel was not a cut. Not a gunshot wound. We show up saw rows of dead. Lined up in burial shrouds the white linen -- sustained by a single drop of blood. Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home. We -- rows of children. Lying side by side. Sprawled on the hospital floor all of them. Dead from us -- gas. And surrounded by parents and grandparents. Who had suffered the same fate. The United States government now knows. That at least. 1429. Syrians were killed in this attack. Including. At least 426. Children. Even the first responders. The doctors nurses and medics tried to save them. They became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air terrified that their own lives were in danger. This is the indiscriminate. Inconceivable. Horror of chemical weapons. This is what us did to his own people. We also know. Many disturbing details about the aftermath. We know. That a senior regime official who knew about the attack. Confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime. Review the impact. And actually was afraid that they would be discovered. We know this. And we know what they did next. I personally called the foreign minister of Syria and I said to -- if as you say -- nation has nothing to hide. Then left the United Nations in immediately and give the inspectors the unfettered access so they have the opportunity to tell your story. Instead. For four days. They shelled the neighborhood. In order to destroy evidence. Bombarding block after block at a rate. Four times higher than they had over the previous ten days. And when the UN inspectors finally gained access. That access -- we now know. Was restricted. And controlled. In all of these things that I have listed in all of these things that we know all of them. The American intelligence community. Has high confidence. High confidence. This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts. So the primary question. Is really no longer. What do we know. The question is what are we we collected what are we in the world and -- do about it. As previous storms in history have gathered. When unspeakable crimes were within our power to stop them. We have been warned against the temptations of looking the other way. History is full of leaders who have warned against in action -- difference. And especially. Against silence. When it mattered most. Our choices and in history had great consequences. And our choice today as great consequences. It matters that nearly a hundred years ago in direct response to the utter horror. And inhumanity of World War I. That the civilized world agreed that chemical weapons should never be used again. That was the world's resolve them. And that began nearly a century of effort to create a clear red line for the international. Community. It matters. Today. That we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. That's why we signed agreements like the start treaty the new start treaty the chemical weapons convention. Which more than 180. Countries including Iran Iraq and Lebanon. Have signed on to. It matters to our security. And the security of our allies. It matters to Israel. It matters to are close friends Jordan Turkey and Lebanon. All of whom live just a stiff breeze away from Damascus. It matters to all of them where the Syrian chemical weapons are -- if unchecked. They can cause even greater death and destruction to those friends. And it matters deeply. To the credibility in the future interest of the United States of America and our allies. It matters because a lot of other countries. Whose policies challenged these international norms. Are watching. There are watching. They want to see whether the United States and our friends mean what we say. It is directly related to our credibility and whether countries. Still believe the United States when it says something. They are watching to see if Syria can get away with it because then maybe they -- Can put the world at greater risk. And make no mistake. In an increasingly complicated world of sectarian. And religious extremist violence. What we choose to do or not do. Matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risks of doing things. We need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing. It matters because we choose to live in the world where a thug. And a murderer. Like Bashar Al Assad can gassed thousands of his own people with -- impunity. Even after the United States and our allies said no. And then the world does nothing about it. There will be no end to the test of our resolve. And the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they could do as they will. This matters also. Beyond the limits of Syria's borders. It is about whether a -- Which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks. Will now feel emboldened. In the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons. Is about Hezbollah. And North Korea. And every other terrorist group -- dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons current or future use. Will they remember that the world stood aside. And created impunity. So our concern is not just. About some far off land. Oceans away. That's not what this is about. Are concerned with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria. Is about choices. That will directly affect our role in the world and our interest in the world. It is also profoundly. About who we are. We -- the United States of America. -- the country that has tried. Not always successfully. But always tried. To honor a set of universal values. Around which we have organized our lives. And our aspirations. This crime against conscience. This crime against humanity. This crime against the most fundamental principles of international. Community against the norm of the international community. This matters to us. And it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership. And to our. Credibility in the world. My friends it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation. And nothing happens. America should feel confident. And gratified. We are not alone in our condemnation. And we are not alone in our will to do something about it and act. The world is speaking out and many friends stand ready to respond. The Arab League pledge. Quote to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime. The organization for Islamic cooperation. Condemned the regime and said we needed quote to hold the Syrian government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime. Turkey said. There is no doubt that the regime is responsible. Our oldest ally the French. Said the regime quote. Committed this vile action. And it is an outrage to use weapons that the community has banned for the last ninety years in all international conventions. The Australian prime minister said he would want history to record. That we were quote. A party. To turning such a blind died. So now that we know we know the question we must all be asking is what we do. Let me emphasize. President Obama we in the United States we believe in the United Nations. And we have great respect for the brave inspectors who would do -- regime gunfire and obstructions. To their investigation. But as Ban Ki Moon the Secretary General has said again and again. The UN investigation. Will not affirm. Who used these chemical weapons. That is not the mandate of the UN investigation. They will only affirm whether such weapons -- use. By the definition of their own mandate. The UN can't tell us anything that we haven't shared -- this afternoon. Or that we don't already know. And because of the guaranteeing Russian obstructionism. -- any action through the UN Security Council. The UN cannot galvanized the world to act as it should. So let me be clear. We will continue talking to the congress. Talking to our allies. And most importantly talking to the American people. President Obama -- will insurer. That the United States of America makes our own decisions. On our own time lines based on our values. And our interests. Now we know that after a decade of conflict. The American people are tired of war. Believe me I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace. Does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly. If we turned a blind died to a dictators -- use of weapons of mass destruction. Against all warnings. Against all common understanding of decency. These things. We do know. We also know that we have a president. Who does what he says that he will do. And he has said very clearly that whatever decision he makes in Syria. It will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan. Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility. For civil war that is already well underway. The president has been clear. Any action that he might decide to take will be limited and tailored response. To ensure. That a -- for its brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons. Is held accountable. And ultimately. Ultimately. We are committed we remain committed we believe it's the primary objective. Is to have a diplomatic process. That can resolve this. Through negotiation. Because we know there is no ultimate military solution. It has to be political. It has to happen at the negotiating table and we are deeply committed to getting there. So that is what we know. That's what the leaders of congress now know. And that's what the American people need to know. And that is that the core. Of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country and for the promise of -- planet. Where the world's most heinous weapons. Must never again be used. Against the world's most vulnerable. I was secretary of state John Kerry in the treaty room there outlining some of the details of that unclassified report. About the chemical weapons attack in Syria. I want to bring in Steve Simon. Talk about some of their responses. That -- secretary Kerry laid out there from this report that we were just given this short synopsis of it. But I want to go through some of the points that secretary Kerry had laid out there. And really. He making a very strong appeal to read the report for yourself because obviously with public opinion and the international community waiting to see. What was found on the ground there. There's a lot of information that is going to be sifted through one of the things that the secretary said is that in fact they know exactly where these rockets came from. And the intended targets of them. And that in fact they've combined this circumstantial evidence in the fact that Syria does have the largest chemical weapons store in the Middle East. And that they were determined to use and on the suburbs of Damascus is that a convincing argument. I think this circumstantial case is certainly very powerful. You know it's an old cliche that detectives solve crimes when they can. Determined that the suspect had the motive the means and the opportunity. You know to carry out the crime and that you know clearly the regime had the motive. As secretary Kerry described. Think they really needed to clean out those Damascus suburbs and hadn't been able to do so with conventional weapons. They had the means an enormous stockpile of chemical weapons and they do in the delivery vehicles for those things in the form of the rockets. That we use and they had the opportunity. -- the opportunity was provided by the diplomatic protection that they were getting from Russia. And the favorable you know timing and atmospheric conditions so that the weapons could achieve maximum effect. So they had all three circumstantial case I think you know very strong. Now they had other things as well and that's pretty clear. They must have had some kind of secret intelligence that told them. That enabled them to hear the -- talking among each other. About this thing. And it's that kind of evidence that removes this from the realm of the circumstantial case. It takes it added the domain of inference. And really puts it into the I can't use the phrase slam -- category but into -- you know. Very hard to dispute. Category what about reference to the point that he was making and that top Syrian official had in fact indicating that there was this plan of attack. Or in the works. I think look. It's it's pretty well known that the United States has surveillance you know -- capabilities that are second to none. They've been in serious you know dispute in controversy in the United States only very recently. So the idea that -- somehow you know not listening to the Syrian -- to one another is. You know kind of implausible so we're hearing a lot the United States this is hearing a lot out there and it. That's combined with something else that is known through intelligence. Means skin and that is in understanding of how to Syrians make decisions. And how those decisions are carried out. -- I think it's pretty well understood that. The decision to use chemical weapons on the scale that they were used. If normal procedures were employed by the Syrian government would have entailed approval by the highest levels of the Syrian government. In other words -- -- -- would probably have to have said you know OK. Go ahead and can do. And and the casualty count that secretary -- had mentioned as well from Syria. Was 1429. People including 426. Killed in the suburbs of Damascus. I wanna go on State Department where -- dean Hughes is standing by -- Dana John Kerry's message the whole world is watching. Q we expect his presentation to change any minds they're either -- Home or abroad. Well I think Dan he certainly hoping that it will he really just struck -- he really brought home the point that. If we if the United States lacks the aside regime get away with using chemical weapons which is against international law. Who knows what other regimes will will take the same route. Eight year Iran will decide that he can get away with something like this may -- North Korea may be has bowl. So. I think Dan secretary -- really made the point that despite the fact that Americans are war -- he set himself he's war weary. That there just is not the room to ignore this problem and it's not going to go away. It did the secretary said quote we know that top officials in Syria we're discussing the chemical attack so why not explain exactly how the US government -- Well -- -- -- they're saying that if they explain exactly how they know they'll be compromising important intelligence sources. And so they want to be open and transparent with the American people but at the same time they have to protect the intelligence sources that they -- What are the points that the secretary was making in outlining some of the details of this -- classified report was the response on social media. About ninety minutes after this attack where he said quote all hell broke loose. How reliable -- is the State Department on that kind of of an information out. Well I think -- that -- Just social media. Obviously that would be considered. A bit suspect. But I think what the case -- Kerry was trying to me is that it's a combination of all of these things that it's not just happenstance that they had. All of this information that they knew when the of rockets were being lots they knew where they landed they had this information from. Intercepts from a senior a Syrian official. And so if you add that with what happened on social media not 45 minutes to an hour later. That. Put together that makes a compelling case. All right ABC's Dan -- the State Department Dana thank you for that he and Steve before we go I want to ask you about this than reading all of that information that we have heard and now -- ourselves from the report. On this on classified information. Do we have any idea of a potential response the style the -- mean that the US might take. Well. My impression from listening to 630 -- was that the response will come down pretty soon. He emphasized so strongly the need to do something. And the need for the United States to do it -- I I can't believe he's kind of setting up the American people for some long waiting period until something. Is done so I think we're looking at a time frame that's relatively imminent whether it's you know today tomorrow and the day after I don't know but it's going to be. Probably pretty soon. The second thing courses that he did to make. Real a real effort to tie this to the CW issue. In particular so I think they'll hit CW related targets. -- -- They might choose to hit the units that actually deliver those weapons for example to field units. They might hit a -- control unit up the chain of command. If they note that the word to carry out the attack went through that. That particular command element. They might hit. Military assets that are associated with the delivery of chemical weapons but not the chemical weapons. -- pose themselves because that raises public health hazards and I think people don't really want to. You know get into -- -- that sort of thing I think they'll go for less than what stood out for you in that news conference. I think that passion. With which secretary Kerry made the case. The emphasis he put on the president is a man of his word. His evocation of the Red Line term. In a way. That suggested. You know the administration wanted to redeem that term. As well as the president's use of debt and I think -- isn't particularly the passion he brought to the claim that. This was a serious global issue of norms and that it was incumbent upon the United States to take responsibility for the enforcement those -- All right Steve Simon -- can't thank you enough for your time and for your insight on this. Of course we have a complete report on abcnews.com. On that on classified reports that just came out. For now I'm Dan -- for -- New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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