By Elise Labott
It was unusually positive language for a top U.S. official speaking about the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but there was Secretary of State John Kerry giving the Syrian leader a pat on the back.
Speaking to reporters in Bali on Monday, Kerry hailed the quick pace at which inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have been able to get on the ground in Syria and begin their work to destroy its vast chemical weapons arsenal, as called for in a recent U.N. Security Council resolution.
By Barbara Starr
The Syrian regime is again moving around its stockpile of chemical weapons, leaving the United States trying to figure out what Bashar al-Assad will do next with his deadly arsenal.
CNN has learned that the U.S. intelligence community is closely watching the latest development as diplomatic efforts continue around forging a plan for al-Assad to relinquish those stockpiles to international control.
Obama administration officials at two agencies said the movement took place in recent days – since United States and Russia agreed on September 14 to a timetable for Syria to declare its chemical weapons inventory and then give them up.
“There is activity at known chemical weapons storage sites,” one official said. “What is unclear is whether they are moving them to consolidate the stockpile and then declare it, or are they moving it around to conceal it” in advance of reporting it to international inspectors.
U.S. satellites have observed truck convoys moving in and out of storage sites, but the ongoing intelligence challenge involves knowing where the trucks are headed and exactly what they are carrying, that official added.
“Call us skeptical” of Syrian intentions, the other official said.
(CNN) - As a Russian proposal to strip Syria of its chemical weapons began to take shape, the White House eased off the gas on Tuesday in its drive for congressional approval to strike the Middle Eastern country.
President Barack Obama asked Senate Democrats to delay voting on authorizing military action in Syria while the diplomatic process works itself out, according to senators in a meeting with Obama.
A White House official told CNN that during his meeting on the hill, the president said that his administration would spend the days ahead pursuing this diplomatic option with the Russians and U.S. allies at the United Nations.
By Jamie Crawford
Russia urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to put his nation's chemical weapons stockpile under international control as part of an effort to head off a possible military strike from the United States.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said his country would urge Syria to take the action if it would avert a military response from the United States. There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian government.
Lavrov's comments came the same day Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to endorse a similar course of action.
Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," Kerry said during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done obviously."
By CNN's Barbara Starr and Jennifer Rizzo
The U.S. military could execute a strike against Syria very quickly, if it's ordered to, according to Pentagon sources.
President Barack Obama is still debating a limited strike after Syrian regime forces allegedly unleashed a brutal chemical attack against civilians and rebel forces earlier this month, killing at least 1,429 people, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Before any missiles start flying, the president would issue an "execute" order for operations to begin.
By Barbara Starr and Elise Labott
CNN has learned new details about what is contained in the U.S. intelligence assessment that alleges the Syrian regime was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, Syria, last week.
According to senior U.S. officials, the assessment contains evidence showing senior regime officials making preparations for a massive chemical attack in the area where the incident occurred - the evidence is part of a "body of intelligence beforehand" that links the regime to the attack, as one of the officials described it.
It also includes evidence of senior regime officials discussing the attack afterward, acknowledging a realization the event was already getting massive attention and discussing that it would be wise to lay low for a while and refrain from launching such massive chemical attacks in the near future, the officials said.
In addition, the intelligence shows there was increased intensive shelling in the area after the attack, the officials said.
By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent
CNN has learned the United States has intercepts of conversations among top Syrian military officials discussing the chemical weapons attack after it took place last week, according to a U.S. official.
The intercepts form a key basis for the conclusion that the Syrian regime was behind the attack. But another crucial piece of evidence about what type of chemicals may have been used remains to be determined. Tissue samples and other medical and forensic evidence taken from victims has not yet been fully analyzed, the official said. One source familiar with the latest intelligence said getting that information would provide the strongest case for the use of chemical weapons.
CNN has previously reported Israeli military intelligence provided the United States with intercepts between Syrian military commanders discussing the movement of chemical weapons to the area of the attack before it happened, according to a diplomatic source.
The administration has said it would release a declassified version of its intelligence assessment about last week's attack outside Damascus. White House spokesman Josh Ernest said Thursday the declassified version is not yet complete but should be released by the end of the week.
By Jim Acosta and Brianna Keilar
A senior administration official stressed U.S. President Barack Obama is on an “abbreviated timeline” for making a decision on whether to launch a military strike against Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons.
“We see this with some urgency,” the official said.
After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime was “undeniable,” the senior administration official said the United States no longer requires confirmation from United Nations weapons inspectors.
“This one is a lot easier to figure out,” the official said. “This is really obvious.” FULL POST
By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on Syria Monday left little doubt the United States would deliver a punishing response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, calling the facts "undeniable" and warning the regime of President Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable.
Laying out a moral case for eventual military intervention, Kerry called Assad's attacks against civilians "a moral obscenity" that "should shock the conscience of the world." What is happening on the ground in Syria, Kerry said, "is real and it is compelling" and demanded a response from the international community. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Indonesia Monday, said "if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification."
The United States is examining a variety of potential legal justifications for any type of military action. While three United Nations Security Council resolutions have failed to pass because of Russian veto power, officials say some in the administration believe it may be worth it to make the effort. But with Moscow already promising to declare any military intervention illegal, the United States and its allies would likely have to act without a U.N. mandate. FULL POST
By Frederik Pleitgen, Hamdi Alkhshali and Josh Levs, CNN
Syria will allow U.N. inspectors full access to any site of a purported chemical weapons attack, a top Syrian official told CNN on Sunday.
The agreement is effective immediately, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said.
And inspectors hope to begin their probe Monday at the suspected chemical attack site, the U.N. secretary-general's office said.