White House officials are all but completely convinced that Syria’s government is guilty of using chemical weapons, greatly increasing the chances of a U.S. military strike.
“There is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident,” a senior administration official told The Hill on Sunday.
Administration officials have yet to determine whether the attacks were launched by forces loyal to embattled President Bashar Assad.
“We are continuing to assess the facts so the president can make an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons,” the official said in a statement to The Hill.
There were increasing signs on Tuesday that the Obama administration was moving closer to triggering air strikes on Syria.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) predicted a strike, and U.S. military leaders are already positioning American forces around Syria in anticipation of U.S. military action.
A team of inspectors has been dispatched by the United Nations to investigate the claims by rebel groups that the government used chemical weapons.
On Sunday, Syria’s government said the inspection team would have full access to several sites around the capital where the alleged chemical attacks took place.
U.S. warships, armed with long-range cruise missiles, are already on station off the coast of Syria.
If the U.S. takes military action against Syria, it will be focused on preventing Assad from using chemical weapons and not on regime change, a senior Democrat said Sunday.
“This is not designed to bring the regime down,” House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Corker said he believed U.S. military action would be limited to surgical missile strikes inside the country.
Schiff, who has been a staunch opponent of American action in Syria, added that Congress would only back a limited U.S. mission to target Syria's chemical weapons.
Anything further than that would face harsh opposition on Capitol Hill, Schiff said.