WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry declared Monday that there was "undeniable" evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria, toughening the Obama administration's criticism of Bashar Assad's regime and outlining a justification for possible U.S. military action.
Kerry, speaking to reporters at the State Department, said last week's attack was a "moral obscenity" that "should shock the conscience" of the world. Officials said there was very little doubt that the attack was perpetrated by the Syrian government.
"The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable and – despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured – it is undeniable," said Kerry, the highest-ranking U.S. official to confirm the attack in the Damascus suburbs that activists say killed hundreds of people.
"This international norm cannot be violated without consequences," he added.
Officials said President Barack Obama has not decided how to respond to the use of deadly gases, a move the White House said last year would cross a "red line." But the U.S., along with allies in Europe, appeared to be laying the groundwork for the most aggressive response since Syria's civil war began more than two years ago.