The United States is considering launching a punitive strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, blamed by the U.S. and the Syrian opposition for an Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus. The U.S. said the attack killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children. Those numbers are significantly higher than the death toll of 355 provided by the aid group Doctors Without Borders.
President Barack Obama said he has decided that the United States should take military action against Syria but is seeking congressional authorization for the use of force in a vote expected after Congress returns to work Sept. 9.
Here’s a look at key Syria developments around the world Monday amid heightened tensions over potential military action:
Assad said military strikes against his country would risk triggering a regional war. He said the Middle East is a “powder keg” and no one can say what will transpire if the West takes military action against Syria. He warned “the whole world will lose control of the situation. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists.”
Sen. John McCain told reporters at the White House that Obama must make a strong case for attacking Bashar Assad’s Syria if he wants to win congressional backing for the operation. He also said Obama’s intervention now will be more difficult because Assad “is moving his forces around.” Both McCain and Sen. Lindsay Graham, who spoke after meeting Obama, questioned the wisdom of the administration publicly signaling in advance its intention to strike.
A French intelligence report estimated that the Syrian regime launched the alleged Aug. 21 attack involving a “massive use of chemical agents” and could carry out similar strikes in the future. The government, on its Web site, published a 9-page intelligence synopsis about Syria’s chemical weapons program that found that at least 281 deaths could be attributed to the attack in rebel-held areas outside Damascus.