September 7, 2013 - 10:44 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - With the United States threatening to attack Syria, U.S. and allied intelligence services are still trying to work out who ordered the poison gas attack on rebel-held neighborhoods near Damascus, Reuters reported.
No direct link to President Bashar al-Assad or his inner circle has been publicly demonstrated, and some U.S. sources say intelligence experts are not sure whether the Syrian leader knew of the attack before it was launched or was only informed about it afterward.
While U.S. officials say Assad is responsible for the chemical weapons strike even if he did not directly order it, they have not been able to fully describe a chain of command for the August 21 attack in the Ghouta area east of the Syrian capital.
It is one of the biggest gaps in U.S. understanding of the incident, even as Congress debates whether to launch limited strikes on Assad's forces in retaliation.
After wrongly claiming that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 U.S. invasion, the U.S. intelligence community, along with the Obama administration, are trying to build as solid a case as they can about what it says was a sarin nerve gas attack that killed over 1,400 people.
One possible link between the gas attack and Assad's inner circle is the Syrian government body that is responsible for producing chemical weapons, U.S. and allied security sources say, according to Reuters.
Personnel associated with the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Council (SSRC), which has direct ties to Assad's entourage, were likely involved in preparing munitions in the days before the attack, they say. Much of the U.S. claim that Assad is responsible was initially based on reports from witnesses, non-governmental groups and hours of YouTube videos.
U.S. officials have not presented any evidence to the public of scientific samples or intelligence information proving that sarin gas was used or that the Syrian government used it.
The United States has also not named any Syrian commanders it thinks gave the green light to fire gas-laden rockets into Ghouta.
Reports that Assad's brother, Maher, a general who commands an elite Republican Guard unit and a crack Syrian army armored division, gave the order to use chemicals have not been substantiated, U.S. sources said. Some U.S. sources now believe Maher Assad did not order the attack and was not directly involved.
A sharply divided U.S. Senate committee voted Wednesday, Sept 4, to give President Barack Obama limited authority to use force against Syria. The panel voted 10-7 in favor of a compromise resolution that sets a 60-day limit on any engagement in Syria, with a possible 30-day extension, and bars the use of U.S. troops on the ground for combat operations.