Obama calls alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack 'a big event'

President Obama says the possible chemical weapons attack by government forces in Syria is a "big event of grave concern."

Obama said in an interview on CNN that the U.S. is still seeking confirmation that toxic gases were used in Syria. But he said such actions are "very troublesome" and are going to "require America's attention."

However, Obama said the idea that the U.S. can solve Syria's civil war is "overstated."

The administration has been reluctant to engage militarily despite mounting signs that the Assad regime has crossed the so-called "red line" Obama set regarding the use of chemical weapons.
The White House has ordered the U.S. intelligence community to probe the latest alleged chemical attack and get to the bottom of what happened.

The administration is also still weighing its options on the crises in Egypt, where the U.S. is torn between two risky options: condemning the military-backed government, and potentially emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood; or overtly backing the Egyptian military, and ignoring its ouster of elected president Mohammed Morsi. 

The president, currently on a two-day bus tour touting his revamped education plan, has faced questions about his priorities as the Middle East convulses with violence and political upheaval.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued a blistering statement Thursday morning in response to the latest violence in Syria. "American credibility in the Middle East has never been lower," he said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that having Obama on the road and rolling out new education reforms for American families is exactly where the president’s focus should be. 

"As we're weighing these domestic policy positions and foreign policy decisions, the president puts the interests of the United States of America first," Earnest said. "The fact that we are doing this bus tour is an indication that the president has his priorities straight."