Syrians inspect buildings damaged by heavy shelling on Monday by Syrian government forces in Aleppo, Syria. (Aleppo Media Center/The Associated Press)
This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrians search under rubble to rescue people from houses that were destroyed by a Syrian government warplane, in Idlib province, northern Syria, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. United Nations experts are investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria as the United States and its allies prepare for the possibility of a punitive strike against President Bashar Assad’s regime, blamed by the Syrian opposition for the attack. The international aid group Doctors Without Borders says at least 355 people were killed in the Aug. 21 attack in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital.(AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN)
WASHINGTON — Edging toward a punitive strike against Syria, President Barack Obama said Friday he is weighing “limited and narrow” action as the administration bluntly accused Bashar Assad’s government of launching a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 1,429 people — far more than previous estimates — including more than 400 children.
No “boots on the ground,” Obama said, seeking to reassure Americans weary after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With France as his only major public ally, Obama told reporters he has a strong preference for multilateral action. He added, “Frankly, part of the challenge we end up with here is a lot of people think something should be done but nobody wants to do it.”
Halfway around the world, U.S. warships were in place in the Mediterranean Sea. They carried cruise missiles, long a first-line weapon of choice for presidents because they can find a target hundreds of miles distant without need of air cover or troops on the ground.
In what appeared increasingly like the pre-attack endgame, U.N. personnel dispatched to Syria carried out a fourth and final day of inspection as they sought to determine precisely what happened in last week’s attack. The international contingent arranged to depart on Saturday and head to laboratories in Europe with the samples they have collected.