Government forces in Syria may have launched the chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed more than a thousand civilians last month before receiving a go-ahead from President Bashar Assad.
According to an article published on Sunday in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, a German spy ship intercepted repeated communications from forces loyal to Assad asking for permission to use chemical weapons; however, their requests were consistently denied.
This latest report comes as the Oval Office unleashed an all-out public relations offensive over the weekend in order to convince a deeply skeptical Congress to approve a resolution that would allow for the use of military strikes to both punish and degrade the capabilities of Assad’s forces after they allegedly deployed chemical weapons against civilians in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21.
On Sunday, President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough conceded that the White House did not have “irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence” connecting Assad to the use of chemical weapons. He appeared to be contradicted on Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry, who insisted that the evidence against Assad was compelling according to an AP report.
With legislators set to kick off a new Congressional session today, Obama is scheduled to participate in several interviews with major news networks before speaking directly to the American people in a televised national address on Tuesday night.
Assad has also been doing some PR of his own. During an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose in Damascus last week, he denied ordering the assault and called on the Obama administration to produce solid evidence proving his government was behind the attack.
During the interview, the embattled Syrian leader refused to confirm or deny if his government possessed stockpiles of chemical weapons and warned the American public against supporting another war in the Middle East, reported Rose who spoke with CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
The interview airs on PBS Monday night.
Earlier on Monday, Beijing called on Washington to consult with the U.N. Security Council and reach a consensus concerning the crisis in Syria, warning the Obama administration to “think thrice” before launching a unilateral attack against Assad. President Obama has stated that he is prepared to act without the council’s blessing after China and Russia repeatedly blocked resolutions during the past two years that would have levied punishments against the Assad regime.