You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.


  • Top doctor dies from Ebola after treating dozens
    A leading virologist who risked his own life to treat dozens of Ebola patients died Tuesday from the disease, officials said, as a major regional airline announced it was suspending flights to the cities hardest hit by an outbreak that
  • Shelling adds to mounting civilian toll in Ukraine
    Shelling in at least three cities in eastern Ukraine has hit a home for the elderly, a school and multiple homes, adding to a rapidly growing civilian death toll Tuesday.
  • Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule; scores killed
    Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the strip’s only power plant in the
Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks Sunday from the State Department in Washington, making a case for U.S. intervention in Syria.

Kerry: Sarin used in attack

Traces found in some of 1,400 Syrian victims

– The Obama administration asserted Sunday for the first time that the Syrian government used the nerve gas sarin to kill more than 1,400 people in the world’s gravest chemical weapons attack in 25 years as the White House intensified pressure on a skeptical Congress to authorize punitive military strikes against Damascus.

Secretary of State John Kerry said new laboratory tests showed traces of sarin, an extremely toxic nerve agent, in blood and hair samples collected from emergency workers who responded Aug. 21 to the scene of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs.

In an interview blitz on five Sunday television news shows, Kerry said the fresh forensic evidence strengthened an already compelling case for taking military action against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, predicting that Congress would vote to give President Barack Obama that authority.

“I can’t contemplate that the Congress would turn its back on all of that responsibility and the fact that we would have, in fact, granted impunity to a ruthless dictator to continue to gas his people,” Kerry said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Those are the stakes.”

But many lawmakers, including some who had previously pushed for a harder line against Assad, said the White House would have a tough time drumming up support for intervention in Syria’s seemingly intractable civil war.

“My constituents are war-weary. They don’t want to see us get involved in this,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The president has an obligation to make his case to the Congress, but he also has an obligation to make this case to the American people. … It’s going to be a very, very tough debate.”

It is a debate that most in Congress did not expect. Administration officials had given every sign that Obama would order an attack on Syria over the Labor Day weekend. The Navy had moved destroyers armed with cruise missiles close to the Syrian coast, and Pentagon officials said they were ready to strike.

On Saturday, however, Obama stunned much of the world by announcing that he had decided to hold off for the moment and that he would first seek formal backing from Congress. On Sunday, he dispatched a stream of national security officials to Capitol Hill for classified briefings to lawmakers who interrupted their summer recess to rush back to Washington.

Obama warned Assad a year ago not to use chemical weapons against his own people, saying such a move would cross a “red line” that could force the United States to intervene militarily. But on Aug. 21, a torrent of grisly videos surfaced on the Internet, depicting mass casualties from a nighttime attack outside Damascus that rebel groups said involved poison gas.

In an unclassified intelligence dossier made public Friday, U.S. officials said they believe that the Syrian government used a “nerve agent” in the attack. But the intelligence report did not specify the kind of nerve gas and appeared to lack forensic evidence that would support a definitive conclusion.

On Sunday, Kerry said U.S. officials had received fresh lab results showing traces of sarin in hair and blood samples collected from the scene. He did not give further details or elaborate on the source of the material, other than to say that it had not come from a team of United Nations inspectors that left Syria on Saturday.

The U.N. team of chemical weapons experts had spent four days near the site of the alleged attack and brought an extensive collection of forensic samples and other evidence to The Hague for testing in European laboratories.

The results of those tests, depending on how quickly the tests are conducted, could play an influential role as Congress debates whether to endorse military action against Syria. If the U.N. tests confirm the use of sarin gas, it would lend independent credibility to the Obama administration’s arguments. If the U.N. tests are inconclusive or offer conflicting results, they could badly undercut the White House.

U.N. officials had said previously that it could take as long as two weeks for the experts to present their findings. On Saturday, a U.N. spokesman said: “Whatever can be done to speed up the process is being done, but we are not giving a timeline.”

Syria is thought to have multiple nerve agents and other poison gases in its chemical stockpile. Assad’s government has denied carrying out gas attacks, blaming rebel forces instead.

Long-standing global treaties have banned the use of chemical weapons. The last major chemical weapons attack occurred in 1988, in Halabja, Iraq, a Kurdish city that was gassed on the orders of ruler Saddam Hussein.