Carney: Facts will drive Syrian chemical weapons investigation

The U.S. will not set a timeline for determining if Syria used chemical weapons because the facts must drive the investigation, not a deadline, the White House said on Friday.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said that the U.S. must build on the information gathered by its intelligence community to determine whether or not Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime used chemical weapons. Carney clarified that the White House has not concluded that Syria used chemical weapons.

"What the White House has said is that it has been assessed by our intelligence community with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin," Carney said. "This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Now, we are working to establish credible and corroborated facts to build on this intelligence assessment in order to establish a definitive judgment as to whether or not the President's red line has been crossed, and to inform our decision-making about next steps."

Carney said that while the U.S. has yet to draw a conclusion from the matter, the prospect that Assad would use or transfer chemical weapons is a gravely serious issue.

"The situation in Syria is and has been grave," Carney said. "The Assad regime has the blood of its own people on its hands. There has been enormous loss of life and enormous disruption. And you have seen us in a leadership role significantly increase our aid to the Syrian people through humanitarian assistance; significantly step up our assistance to the opposition, including nonlethal assistance directly to the Syrian military council as part of the opposition. And that is in reaction what we have seen in Syria. But it is I think instructive to look at the past for guidance when it comes to the need to be very serious about gathering all the facts, establishing chain of custody, linking evidence of the use of chemical weapons to specific incidents and actions taken by the regime."

Carney refused to speculate about what options might be taken if the U.S. establishes the red line was crossed, but he said that all options remain on the table.