Top White House officials tell CNN the president called lawmakers Thursday night to say the administration has no doubt President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria is behind deadly chemical attacks.
Though CNN's Frederick Pleitgen reports the Syrian defense minister recently sent a letter to the defense minister of Iran saying the rebels are the ones responsible for the attacks in the country.
Secretaries of State, Defense and others, refute this claim and assured the group the U.S. has intercepted communications "from a high level Syrian official which clearly indicates they were responsible for these weapons."
One key GOP senator, Bob Corker, emerged from the briefings to announce support for what he called "surgical, proportional military strikes given the strong evidence of the Assad regime's continued use of chemical warfare."
Democratic Senate foreign relations chair Bob Menendez reaffirmed his support too, saying "a decisive and consequential U.S. response is justified and warranted."
Others argued the president still has to come before congress and the American people before he acts.
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The White House could release evidence the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people as early as Thursday, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.
In an interview with PBS Newshour, the President left no doubt who the U.S. believes ordered the chemical weapons attacks, saying:
"We want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people – against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you're also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected, and that needs to stop."
Among the evidence proving the Syrian regime's hand behind chemical weapons use: intercepts of Syrian commanders discussing the movement of chemical weapons to the area of the attack, provided by Israeli intelligence.
The U.S.'s potential next step, launching cruise missile strikes, has put the U.S. at direct odds with Russia.
"We do not believe the Syrian regime should be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action on Syria at the U.N., State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf tells the press.
"But behind the scenes officials are signalling the U.S. may not wait for the U.N. to act," Starr says.
"The U.S. military is strengthening its position in the Eastern Mediterrrean with the addition of two more submarines."
The Syrian regime is also getting prepared.
Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria's ambassador to the UN, says "We are in a state of war right now preparing ourselves for the worst scenario."
But the rhetoric from the Syrian government has also become more subdued now.
"You can tell that the regime is getting more and more nervous," reports CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.
Pleitgen says many Syrians are also getting fearful and trying to leave the country now.
“People seem unsure what the future will bring with the American air strikes looming.”
A U.S. response to Syria is imminent after clear word from the Obama Administration insisting the Assad regime is to blame for a deadly chemical weapons attack near Damsacus, which rebels say left some 1300 people dead.
Plans are apparently in the works for a U.S. response, but the White House says nothing has yet been decided.
CNN has learned the National Security Council met Tuesday night at the White House, to discuss Syria. The president did not take part.
Meanwhile, Russia is warning the U.S. against an attack.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted Tuesday: "The West handles the Islamic world the way a monkey handles a grenade."
“There's no love affair between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, but their countries have been in a tight embrace since Soviet times,” reports CNN’s Jill Dougherty.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has said, “The Russian-Syrian relationship is a historical relationship that goes back decades back and is still continuing in the same momentum till this day.”
From military ties to those of blood and religion, the Russians and Syrians have a clear vested interest in one other.
“Syria has been buying its military weapons from Russia since Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, ruled the country and Moscow is still fulfilling some of those Soviet-era contracts,” Dougherty reports.
Also, Russia's naval facility in Syria's port of Tartus is Moscow's only remaining Mediterranean repair spot for its ships.
According to Russian media, at least 25,000 Russian women are married to Syrian men.
And the largest Christian denomination in both Syria and Russia is the Orthodox Church. Moscow fears that if Islamist rebels win, they will be decimated.
“But the deepest reason the Kremlin sticks with Assad is Russia's anger over any unilateral military action or regime change by the West,” Dougherty explains.
“It started with NATO's 1999 air campaign against Russia's ally, Serbia.”
Matters worsened when the west launched airstrikes against Libya's Muammar Gadhafi, in 2011.
Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says, “Mr. Putin basically came to the conclusion that never again, this will never happen again. That they will stick by Mr. Assad and Syria. Not because they particularly like Mr. Assad but because they see him as the legitimate president, or the legitimate leader of Syria.”
Dougherty says, “Russia now claims there's little difference between President Obama and President George W. Bush. And they predict that if Assad falls what comes after him could be even worse.”
A promised crackdown operation on protesters in Cairo this morning turned violent.
Police moved in on the two sit-ins around dawn, firing warning shots in the air and demanding the supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy leave.
But they refused to go. Now, after hours of fighting, Egyptian officials say at least one demonstration camp has been cleared.
“This place looks like a warzone,” CNN’s Reza Sayah reports from East Cairo, in the midst of the main sit-in that’s been underway for more than six weeks.
There are conflicting claims over just how many people were killed and injured.
The Muslim Brotherhood says hundreds are dead. Egyptian officials say only sixwere killed, dozens more injured.
“It’s not clear who’s doing the shooting,” Sayah says. “It’s a highly charged atmosphere, a lot of people emotional.”
Sayah says protesters are defiant, telling him they are not leaving, "and we are prepared to die."
Stay tuned for live updates on CNN and follow along at CNN.com for developments.
The terror threat that prompted the State Department to close 22 U.S. embassies and consulates across the Muslim world this past Sunday has left 19 of those diplomatic posts closed through the rest of this week.
“The CIA and the National Security Agency had been secretly monitoring intelligence tips for weeks,” reports CNN’s Barbara Starr.
“There were indications of a possible terrorist attack in Yemen, a stronghold of one of Al Qaeda's deadliest affiliates.”
Washington sprang to action when a crucial message was recently intercepted involving communications among senior al Qaeda operatives.
U.S. officials then issued a worldwide travel warning in addition to closing embassies across the Middle East and North Africa as a precaution.
Starr reports, “Fifteen hundred Marines on board three Navy warships in the Red Sea will now remain off the coast of Yemen ready to react.”
Follow along at CNN.com for emerging details in the story.
In Spain, an occasion for celebration turned into tragedy overnight.
At least 77 are dead and more than 100 injured after a high-speed passenger train crashed and almost snapped in two in northwestern Spain on Wednesday.
“About a third of the people who got on that train in Madrid yesterday are now dead,” CNN’s Al Goodman reports over the phone.
“A court official tells CNN that number is expected to rise. We’re hearing that they still have some train cars to look at.”
That deadly derailment happened just one day before the patron saint day of St. James, Santiago.
“There are dozens and dozens of people who wounded on what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of the year…It’s a big tragedy instead.
Pope Francis is in Brazil this morning for his first time back in South America since being named the leader of the world's Catholics.
But it's not a trip without controversy.
A small explosive device was found this weekend near a shrine the pontiff will visit later this week. He's also facing growing discontent there within the Catholic Church.
Yet Pope Francis got off to a low key start on his biggest trip yet. He rode from the airport in a silver hatchback, sending the unmistakable message that this is a different pope.
“He drove with the windows down,” CNN’s Miguel Marquez reports from Rio de Janiero “When it came to a stop he was swarmed by pilgrims.”
But many were waiting for the pope’s first public appearance. He took a quick spin around downtown Rio and tens of thousands of followers cheered him on.
There were some protests however.
Gabriel Paulo of the Unified Socialist Party says, "We don't believe our government should spend public money our money in covering the events and security of the pope."
“"Protesters even tear gassed at Rio's government palace," Marquez says. “But excitement over this pope's visit hard to overcome,” Marquez says. “A good start for a man on a mission to reinvigorate the church.”
The royal baby watch is nearly over.
After weeks of waiting, the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate, is now in early labor.
Kate and Prince William arrived at Saint Mary's Hospital at about 6am in the U.K.
“The labor is progressing normally,” CNN’s Max Foster reports live from London.
“She’s inside [with] her full medical team, her own medical obstetricians–two of them–plus the hospital staff,” Foster says. “She could not be in better hands.”
CNN Royal Commentator Katie Nicholl has covered the royal family for more than a decade. She explains what the birth of this baby—third in line to the throne, means for the royal family.
“It will be historic child whether it's a boy or girl,” Nicholl says. “I think lot of people are hoping it will be a girl because of historical implementations that that will have.”
Standing outside of Buckingham Palace, Nicholl says, “Behind me, at the gate, is where the easel will be posted, at some point later on today when the royal baby arrives, announcing the weight, the sex, possibly name, and it will be here in keeping with royal protocol and historic tradition that everyone will find out first about the birth.”
But this is only after the Queen finds out.
“Prince William is under strict instructions to telephone the queen as soon as the birth has happened,” Nicholl says. “He will make that call on an especially encrypted phone. Royal protocol dictates that the Queen must be the first to be told before anyone else about the future heir.”
Tune in to CNN or follow along at CNN.com for developments.
New details about the deadly train crash and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec is raising new questions this morning.
At least 15 people are now confirmed dead and 35 remain missing after the runaway train loaded with 72 tankers of crude oil derailed and exploded, obliterating the center of the town.
Initially reported as an accident, the crash is now being investigated as a possible criminal act.
CNN’s Paula Newton has details.
“It's clear police want to preserve the heart of what is now a crime scene,” Newton reports. “They've asked firefighters to stop dousing it with water. They have dozens of investigators combing through what little is left.”
Police are revealing little about what evidence they’ve uncovered from the catastrophe, but they are not convinced it was purely an accident.
"Namely there are pieces that lead us to believe that there are certain facts that might lead to criminal acts,” says Captain Michel Forget of the Quebec Provincial Police.
The chaos is ongoing this morning in Egypt, where both sides continue to argue over who was responsible for Monday's deadly shooting outside the Republican Guard headquarters.
More than 50 are now dead, and hundreds injured.
The question at large: Did the military open fire without warning? Or was it stopping a terror attack?
The interim president is launching an investigation, at the same time also outlining a timetable for new elections.
Reza Sayah is live in Cairo with details.