The US has little doubt the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians and any decision to open the site to UN inspectors comes “too late to be credible,” a senior US official said Sunday, Aug. 25.
The official made clear the Syrian government's agreement to let United Nations inspectors visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack was inadequate.
"At this juncture, any belated decision by the regime to grant access to the UN team would be considered too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days," the official said.
"If the Syrian government had nothing to hide and wanted to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons in this incident, it would have ceased its attacks on the area and granted immediate access to the UN five days ago," the senior Obama administration official said.
The White House appeared not to be deterred from military intervention by an effort by Damascus to ease tensions by allowing UN inspectors to finally visit the areas allegedly hit with chemical weapons.
Middle East tensions were further ratcheted up during the day by a warning from Tehran. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces said Sunday: "America knows the limitation of the red line of the Syrian front and any crossing of Syria's red line will have severe consequences for the White House." Iranian and Syrian spokesmen have said that a US attack on Syria would prompt a Syrian missile attack on Israel in retaliation.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman also issued a statement late Sunday saying: "We again resolutely urge all those who are trying to force conclusions on the UN experts and who say that armed action against Syria is possible, to show common sense and avoid tragic mistakes.”
DEBKAfile reported early Sunday morning:
Western and Middle East powers led by Washington began moving Saturday night and Sunday morning, Aug. 25, toward a first strike against Syria following the Assad regime’s large-scale chemical attack in eastern Damascus last Wednesday. The first targeted strike may well signal the start of a series of US-led attacks aimed at toppling the Assad regime, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. They may consist of imposing a no-fly zone and the sealing off of sectors in northern and southern Syria against government forces.
Russian forces also went on war alert
President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron spent 40 minutes on the phone Saturday night amid the strongest indications to date from Washington that direct military intervention by the West was approaching, following a change in the US president’s posture. He has become convinced that the strike would have to be conducted outside the United Nations.
Military commanders from Western and Muslim countries are meeting Sunday in the Jordanian capital of Amman to coordinate action in Syria, with the participation of the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, France, Italy and Canada. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff chairs the meeting. Saturday night, four American destroyers were moving closer to Syria, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, which are capable of precision strikes.
While Western media are reporting at length on Western, Arab and Muslim military preparations, Israel’s armed forces are moving ahead in secrecy. Its officials spread soothing statements asserting Israel’s non-involvement in the Syrian turmoil, as Israel’s military and intelligence agencies get ready for Syria to counter an attack by loosing missiles against their country as well as Jordan and Turkey. All three also expect an explosion of terrorism.
Saturday night, Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi, while denying his government was responsible for Wednesday’s poison gas attack, stated over state television that if Syria came under attack, “a mass of flames will ignite the Middle East.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Moscow has placed on war alert Russia’s Mediterranean and Black Sea fleets as well as rapid deployment forces in southern and central Russia.
Three Syrian hospitals told the humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières Saturday that they had received around 3,600 patients suffering from symptoms related to a poison gas attack. Of these, 355 had reportedly died.
According to DEBKAfile’s sources, Western demands for proof of the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons before taking action have been countered in the last few hours by the discovery that the forensic evidence will be all but impossible to obtain in view of the special mixture contained in the gas shells. Only tiny quantities of sarin were blended in with a large quantity of riot control agents, a formula developed by Iran to camouflage the use of chemical weapons.