A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.
In remarks on August 30, Secretary of State Kerry said, "We know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year and has used them on a smaller scale, but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened. We know that the regime was specifically determined to rid the Damascus suburbs of the opposition, and it was frustrated that it hadn’t succeeded in doing so."
Secretary Kerry continued, "The United States Government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children. Even the first responders, the doctors, nurses, and medics who tried to save them, they became victims themselves. We saw them gasping for air, terrified that their own lives were in danger. This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people."
The United States Government assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.
"The President has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be a limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable," Secretary Kerry said. "And ultimately, ultimately, we are committed -- we remain committed, we believe it’s the primary objective -- is to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution. It has to be political. It has to happen at the negotiating table, and we are deeply committed to getting there."
- Remarks by President Obama
- Statement on Syria by Secretary of State John Kerry: Full Text | Video
- Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013
- Map (PDF): Damascus Areas of Influence and Areas Reportedly Affected by 21 August Chemical Attack
- Readout of President Obama's Phone Call With President Hollande of France Regarding the Assad Regime's Use of Chemical Weapons
- Go to WhiteHouse.gov/Syria for more information.