WHITE HOUSE — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday there is no doubt that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out last week's chemical attack in Damascus, and must be held accountable. The remarks came as President Barack Obama continues to assess options for a response with key allies.
Amid preparations for some form of military strike on Syria, Biden began a speech to the national convention of The American Legion in Texas with tough words for the Assad government.
There is no doubt, he said, that an essential international norm has been violated, and no doubt that the Syrian regime is responsible. And he said the United States and its allies are determined to ensure there is accountability.
"The president believes, and I believe, that those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children should and must be held accountable," said Biden.
Although the White House has said the facts are clear, Obama's spokesman faced additional questions Tuesday about the intelligence information forming the basis for an eventual response.
Jay Carney said a report from the intelligence community about the alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus will be released this week. He said a "careful review of the facts" supports the conclusion that the Assad regime was behind the attack, and that a response is in the interests of the U.S. and the world.
"To allow it to happen without a response would be to invite further use of chemical weapons and to have that international standard dissolve, and the consequences of that, given the volatility of the region, and the concerns that this nation and many others have about proliferation of chemical weapons, would be very serious indeed," said Carney.
The Syrian government denies launching chemical attacks and has blamed rebels fighting to oust Assad for the attack near Damascus that left hundreds dead.
Obama continues to consult with his national security team. He, Biden and others in the administration have been making telephone calls to world leaders.
Syria was one focus of a meeting, previously scheduled, that National Security Adviser Susan Rice had with an Israeli delegation that included a senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Strike against use of chemical weapons
Anthony Cordesman, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he believes a military strike likely will target key Syrian government and military installations.
"You know this not only will send a powerful message to deter the use of chemical weapons, it will also indicate the U.S. has taken action which will in some ways strengthen the rebels and will weaken the Assad regime as a whole," he said.
White House spokesman Carney was asked why a U.S. and Western military response would not target Assad himself.
"I want to make clear that the options we are considering are not about regime change, they are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons," he said.
The White House continues to stress that it views the eventual response to last week's chemical attack separately from the overall issue of ending Syria's civil war. Carney said that requires a negotiated political solution, but it cannot involve Assad.