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Mr. Obama has portrayed the use of chemicals by the regime as a “red line” that would have harsh consequences, but he has said he needs more time to investigate allegations.

In another potentially destabilizing element, Israel signaled last week that it will keep striking at shipments of advanced Iranian weapons that might be bound for Hezbollah. Syria traditionally has be a conduit for Iranian weapons to Hezbollah.

Earlier this month, Israel struck twice at what Israeli officials said were shipments of advanced Iranian missiles near Damascus. In response, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said this week that Syria is expected to deliver “game-changing” weapons to his militia. If more than empty rhetoric, this would likely provoke more Israeli strikes.

*#8226; Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Karin Laub and Zeina Karam in Beirut, and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this article