President Obama has concluded that Syria used chemical weapons, but his next step remains a major challenge. As his administration considers military action, it's well aware that a public intelligence presentation—which could occur today—would be the most important of its kind since the run-up to the Iraq War, the New York Times reports. Colin Powell's 2003 presentation ran through intelligence that was eventually debunked; The White House hasn't forgotten, and it's tamping down expectations about what it will reveal. Britain, however, went ahead and published its own intel report, reports CNN; it concludes that a strike is legally justified and that there is a need for "humanitarian intervention." London said it was "highly likely" the Syrian government was behind the attack, and that "it is not possible for the opposition to have carried out a [chemical weapon] attack on this scale," the Guardian reports.
As for the US report, there's still no "smoking gun" implicating Bashar al-Assad himself. Still, he's responsible for his military's moves, a US State Department rep says. The bar has been set high for the presentation: The public is reluctant to dive into another Middle Eastern conflict, and members of Congress fear Obama could take action without their approval. To add to that, Russia has already shot down a British-led effort to censure Syria via the UN Security Council, the Los Angeles Times notes. Meanwhile:
- Obama's not the only one struggling for support on Syria. UK lawmakers in the opposition Labour party are seeking further investigation before a vote on whether to strike, Reuters reports. David Cameron has also faced hurdles in his own party amid memories of Iraq. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says investigators will have left Syria by Saturday, the BBC reports.
- John Boehner is calling on Obama to "make the case .. for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy," he says in a letter, per Politico. About a quarter of the House—including 18 Democrats—have signed a letter pushing Obama to discuss any Syria action with Congress.
- The Syrian public appears concerned about a US strike. Some 6,000 fled to Lebanon within 24 hours yesterday, the AP reports; that's compared to the usual 500 to 1,000. Meanwhile, Israelis have been snapping up gas masks, fearing Syrian retaliation.
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