By Justin Sink - 04/29/13 05:47 PM EDT
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the administration had no deadline for determining definitively whether Syria had used chemical weapons.
"What I won't do is speculate about how much time might be required to gather the evidence necessary to be able to assess clearly, in a way that has been corroborated and reviewed, whether or not this red line has been crossed," Carney said. "I think all Americans would hope and expect that on a matter this serious that we would be very careful in this process and insist that we gather all the facts."
Last week, administration officials said initial intelligence indicated it was likely that the nerve gas sarin had been used by the Assad regime. But the White House emphasized again Monday that that assessment, while grounded in "tangible" evidence, was held with "varying degrees of confidence." Carney repeatedly insisted that investigators needed to do more work before the U.S. responded, calling the intelligence reports "not sufficient."
"There is much more to be done to verify conclusively that the red line the president has talked about has been crossed," Carney said.
Congressional Republicans insisted over the weekend that the president stick to his promise to take action against Syria after the use of chemical weapons.
"The president has laid down the line, and it can't be a dotted line,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told ABC’s “This Week.” “It can't be anything other than a red line.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), in an interview with CBS News, said it would be a "huge mistake" to "sit on the sidelines."
On Friday, the president described the situation in Syria as "an ongoing challenge that all of us have to be concerned about."
"I think that in many ways a line's been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people killed by a regime, but the use of chemical weapons and the danger that is poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential of chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists, all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region," Obama said.
On Friday, Carney indicated that the United States could respond militarily if it was definitively determined that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons.
"He retains all options to respond to that, all options," Carney said. "Often the discussion, when people mention all options are on the table, everyone just talks about military force. It's important to remember that there are options available to a commander in chief in a situation like this that include but are not exclusive to that option."