Officials Warn Syria Chemical Weapons Intel Is ‘No Slam Dunk’

Doubts remain among intelligence officials about Assad's role

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Mohamed Abdullah / REUTERS

A U.N. chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus, Aug. 29.

Not so fast: American officials tell the Associated Press that the information linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to last week’s chemical weapons attack is not a “slam dunk.”

Citing unnamed intelligence officials, the AP reports that there are still doubts about who has access to Syria’s chemical weapons and whether Assad himself ordered the attack. Word of the doubts come as the U.S. seems poised for some kind of military response to the attack last week that killed hundreds of civilians. President Barack Obama said Wednesday he has “concluded” that Assad was responsible for the attack, one of the deadliest in the country’s three-year civil war, but Obama also said he still hasn’t decided on a military action.

The phrase “slam dunk” is a throwback to wording used by then-CIA Director George Tenet’s assurances that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in 2002. That intelligence, which helped spur the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, turned out to be incorrect.