Secretary of State John Kerry delivered forceful remarks this afternoon, making a moral argument for U.S. military intervention in Syria.
As part of the argument, Kerry highlighted an attack launched by the Assad regime last week, resulting in 1,429 deaths, including more than 400 children, which U.S. intelligence officials believe was the result of a chemical-weapons attack.
"Read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources," Kerry said. "This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people." To that end, the administration published this unclassified assessment (pdf).
Kerry added, "[T]he primary question is really no longer 'what do we know?' The question is what are we -- we collectively -- what are we in the world going to do about it?"
President Obama himself is expected to speak publicly on this in about 10 minutes. [Update: The president's remarks have apparently been delayed a bit, but are still expected this afternoon.]
At a minimum, we're getting a better sense of the administration's thinking: the evidence is overwhelming, officials say, that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons against its own people. If there are no consequences for such heinous barbarism, Syria will not only continue to use these weapons, but it will also set a precedent that tells the world that chemical weapons can be used with impunity.
With this in mind, the likelihood of a U.S. military strike appears all but certain. Indeed, it's not at all clear what could change President Obama's mind. This isn't a situation in which the White House is issuing an ultimatum -- "Do x or we will act" -- or waiting for an authorization vote, a deadline to pass, or a U.N. report to come out. Rather, this is a dynamic in which the administration appears to simply be waiting for U.N. inspectors to leave Syria so the strike(s) can begin.
It remains unclear why action must happen so quickly, what the strikes would seek to accomplish, what (if anything) would follow the strikes, and what would happen if the Assad regime continues to use chemical weapons in the future even after U.S. intervention.