By James Blitz and Barney Thompson
On Friday, John Kerry, US secretary of state, published the American intelligence agencies’ assessment of why the regime of Bashar al-Assad was culpable for last week’s chemical attack in eastern Damascus. The document was considerably more detailed than the much shorter assessment published by the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
This difference is certain to lead to questions in Britain as to why David Cameron,UK prime minister, was unable to paint a more detailed picture of the Assad regime’s culpability. Some commentators are already arguing that if he had been able to do so, he may have been in a better position to persuade parliament of the merits of military action.
The UK frequently refers to the close collaboration on intelligence matters which it enjoys with the US. But the difference in detail between the two documents is striking.
The UK document says that there was “little serious dispute” that the chemical attacks caused mass casualties on a large scale “including, we judge, at least 350 fatalities.”
The US document said a “preliminary US government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children.” Read more