A top aide to U.S. President Barack Obama says it’s “common sense” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was probably responsible for a chemical weapons attack.
But Chief of Staff Denis McDonough acknowledged that the United States does not have "irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence" that the regime carried out the attack.
McDonough’s statement on U.S. television came as the Obama administration continued to pressure lawmakers to support a measure authorizing a “limited” military operation against the Syrian government.
The House of Representatives and Senate were due to formally start debating the measure September 9, and it remains unclear whether it has enough support to pass.
Many lawmakers have raised concerns about whether a strike could entangle the United States in a prolonged conflict, or strengthen anti-Western militants.
Washington says sarin gas was used in the August 21 attack outside Damascus and that 1,429 people died, including more than 400 children.
In a new U.S. television interview, Assad reiterated claims that rebel forces were responsible for the attack.
Interviewed in Damascus, Assad also said the United States that could face retaliation if it carried out a strike on his government and warned Washington against getting involved in another war in the Middle East.
The full interview was expected to air on the “Charlie Rose” show.
President Obama was expected to give a series of television interviews about the Syrian crisis on September 9, ahead of a scheduled address from the Oval Office the following day.
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP