The U.N. charter forbids the "use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state" unless it's in self-defense or with approval from the Security Council. In the case of Syria, neither the United Nations charter nor the Security Council is likely to offer much cover for intervention.
10. Why not just go to the Security Council then?
Because any call to action against Syria will most certainly be vetoed by its two allies, Russia and China -- both of whom have veto power.
11. Why are Russia and China against intervention?
Russia says it doesn't buy the U.S. claim. "When we ask for more detailed evidence, they say, 'You know, it's all secret, so we can't show you," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "That means that there are no such facts." China says it's against anyone taking unilateral action. Each has its reason: Russia's a big trading partner with Syria. And China had has its own share of international controversies over its policies with Tibet as well as allegations of human rights violations.
12. What about U.S. allies?
France is on board, but has said it won't act without the United States as a partner. Britain's hamstrung after its lawmakers voted down Prime Minister David Cameron's call for intervention. And NATO's stance is that while the Aug. 21 attack calls for a "firm international response," it won't come from the alliance itself. "It is for individual nations to decide how to react," it says.
13. Who can the U.S. count on?
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are on board, Kerry says. He expects others to join.
14. What does Syria think about all this?
Al-Assad's been clear: The Middle East is a powder keg; attack Syria and risk a regional war. "Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes," he told the French newspaper Le Figaro. His regime has repeatedly said it didn't use chemical weapons in the Aug. 21 attack. It says jihadists fighting alongside Syrian rebels used them to turn global sentiment against the regime.
15. Can the international community really afford to wait?
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, says it's fine to wait. A delay won't jeopardize a military strike, he told the president, according to officials.
16. What does the Syrian opposition want?
Opposition groups want action -- now. And with good reason. There's been no pause in the killing: 100,000 and climbing. And on Tuesday, the U.N. refugee agency offered up this grim stat: The number of Syrians who've fled the country has now risen above 2 million. Put another way, every 15 seconds, a Syrian becomes a refugee.
17. How exactly would the U.S. carry out an attack?
No one is calling for boots on the ground. The United States would use U.S. warships with Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Tomahawk has a range of about 1,000 miles. It can loiter over targets, circling for hours, and can be reprogrammed midflight to change course. Yes, each costs about $1.2 million, but they can be fired from quite a distance. This means no one has to get within range of Syrian fire.
18. What about civilian deaths?
Dempsey says collateral damage from a strike will be low. But lawmakers say there's no way he could know that.
19. Could Syria strike back?