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Doubts linger over Syria gas attack evidence

  • In this Aug. 28, 2013, citizen journalism image provided by the United Media Office of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, members of the UN investigation team take samples from sand near a part of a missile that is likely to be one of the chemical rockets according to activists, in the Damascus countryside of Ain Terma, Syria. The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove a connection between the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people in Syria_but in the absence of such evidence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. (AP Photo/United Media Office of Arbeen)

BEIRUT — The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove it, but the public has yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence produced by U.S. intelligence — no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications — connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people.

In its absence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. Neither has produced evidence for that case, either. That's left more questions than answers as the U.S. threatens a possible military strike.

The early morning assault in a rebel-held Damascus suburb known as Ghouta was said to be the deadliest chemical weapons attack in Syria's 2?-year civil war. Survivors' accounts, photographs of many of the dead wrapped peacefully in white sheets and dozens of videos showing victims in spasms and gasping for breath shocked the world and moved President Barack Obama to call for action because the use of chemical weapons crossed the red line he had drawn a year earlier.

Yet one week after Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the case against Assad, Americans — at least those without access to classified reports — haven't seen a shred of his proof.

There is open-source evidence that provides clues about the attack, including videos of fragments from the rockets that analysts believe were likely used. U.S. officials on Saturday released a compilation of videos showing victims, including children, exhibiting what appear to be symptoms of nerve gas poisoning. Some experts think the size of the strike, and the amount of toxic chemicals that appear to have been delivered, make it doubtful that the rebels could have carried it out.


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