Analyst: 'No way in hell' U.S. can back up death toll
Questions about the purported death toll in last month's attack also raises questions about the solidity of the information the U.S. is using.
A preliminary assessment "determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children," the U.S. report says.
"Secretary Kerry seems to have been sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number," says Anthony Cordesman, former director of intelligence assessment at the U.S. Defense Department.
Now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cordesman writes on the CSIS website, "Put simply, there is no way in hell the U.S. intelligence community could credibly have made an estimate this exact."
The methodology used to come up with the toll remains classified.
Rebel leaders have said more than 1,300 people were killed. Britain's Joint Intelligence Organization says at least 350 people were killed. A French report says several sources estimated at least 355 deaths, while others estimate 1,500.
U.N. won't place blame
The United Nations is calling on world leaders not to take action until the results of the U.N. probe are in. But it's unclear how soon that may be.
And the U.N. team's mandate was only to determine whether chemical weapons were used -- not by whom.
And Obama says that cat's out of the bag.
"Frankly, nobody is really disputing that chemical weapons were used," he said.
So, short of a shocking finding that chemical weapons were not used, it's unclear how much of an effect the U.N. results will ultimately have.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime continues to insist rebels were behind any chemical attack. But it offers no proof to back that up.
After word broke Sunday that al-Assad had done an interview with Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS denying any involvement in chemical weaopns attacks, Kerry was asked for a response.
"The evidence speaks for itself," he said.