Syria possible strike: Get up to speed in 20 questions

CNN  — 

The White House has been working overtime this week, trying to line up votes from skeptical lawmakers for a military strike on Syria. The maneuverings began over the weekend when President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve an attack on Syrian targets, saying it’s the right thing to do after the regime allegedly used chemical weapons against rebel strongholds.

There are so many moving parts to this complicated story that it can become quite difficult to keep up.

As you begin your first day back at work after the long holiday weekend, here’s a Q&A that’ll bring you up to speed on the dizzying developments.

1. Give me a quick recap first. What does the White House want?

The White House stance is this: The Assad regime used chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb last month. That’s against international law, and there has to be consequences. It held a classified briefing Sunday to make its case to about 100 House and Senate members. But one after another, lawmakers emerged supremely unconvinced. So it’s got its work cut out.

2. What happens next?

Congress doesn’t officially come back until September 9. That buys the White House a little time. And it intends to spend the rest of this week trying to win the skeptics over. The White House will hold classified briefings nearly every day this week. The president will meet with House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday. And there are House and Senate committee hearings scheduled.

3. Why do lawmakers need convincing?

Lawmakers agree that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons is a travesty. But they don’t want a repeat of Iraq – which the U.S. invaded based on incorrect claims that Saddam Hussein was hoarding weapons of mass destruction. So, they want the administration to really nail its case. “There will be a real questioning as to the veracity of the evidence and if this really happened or not,” House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, told CNN.

4. So, does the U.S. have the proof?

Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN’s “State of the Union” that blood and hair samples taken from medics at the scene of the alleged attack point to the nerve agent sarin. But U.N. inspectors who were on the ground investigating could take three weeks to analyze the evidence they collected. And even then, they’ll only say if there was a chemical attack, not who was behind it.

5. Are there other reasons giving lawmakers pause?

There are almost as many reasons as there are lawmakers. Some say that what Obama’s asking for is too broad. Others want a firm expiration date on American action. Some, like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, say the United States should act only if there’s a clear threat to its national security. Others, like Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn, want to know how much it’s going to cost taxpayers.

6. Is the White House addressing those concerns?

Yes. Two top Democrats are working to narrow the scope of what Obama asked for. They’ve also said they’ll couple strikes with increased support for the rebels. That seems to have appeased Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who earlier said that airstrikes won’t go far enough.