The Obama administration cranked up its call for intervention in Syria on Friday, releasing portions of an intelligence report on last week's chemical weapons attack as Secretary of State John Kerry said there's "no doubt" the Assad regime was behind this "crime against humanity."
Kerry issued a robust call for action in Syria, despite British lawmakers voting a day earlier not to get involved. He cited the findings of an intelligence assessment that was released shortly after he began speaking, saying there's clear evidence chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime last week.
"I'm not asking you to take my word for it," Kerry said, urging people to read the report. "This is what Assad did to his own people."
Kerry called Bashar Assad a "thug" and a "murderer" who must not be allowed to escape retribution for the attack.
The report said preliminary findings show 1,429 people were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children.
The assessment claimed that Syrian chemical weapons personnel even spent the three days prior to the attack preparing for the strike. The personnel allegedly were operating in a Damascus suburb from Aug. 18 until the day of the attack, near an area the regime uses to mix weapons like sarin gas. On the morning of the attack on Aug. 21, according to the report, "a Syrian regime element" prepared for a strike, "including through the utilization of gas masks."
The report said the symptoms of victims -- "unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat and difficulty breathing" -- as well as videos showing dead victims with no visible injuries are all consistent with chemical weapons use.
"We know where the rockets were launched from and at what time," Kerry said. "We know where they landed and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods."
As Kerry and the rest of the administration make their public case for intervention in Syria, they are running into heavy skepticism from Congress, in addition to the vote in London on Thursday. Kerry said Friday the administration is mindful of concerns about an Iraq war repeat, and will continue talking to Congress, allies and the American people. But he said this would involve no boots on the ground and bear "no resemblance" to Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Libya.
"We know that after a decade of conflict the American people are tired of war. Believe me I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility," he said.
As U.N. inspectors pull out of Syria following a week-long investigation into the attack, U.N. officials have urged the international community to await the findings of that investigation. Kerry, though, said the probe will not implicate anybody in the attack; only confirm whether the weapons were used.
"By the definition of their own mandate, the U.N. can't tell us anything we haven't shared with you this afternoon or that we don't already know," he said.