As the United States threatened force to degrade al-Assad's ability to carry out more chemical weapons attacks, a diplomatic opportunity arose between Russia and the United States to put Syria's stockpile under international control.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hammered out a deal in Geneva last week compelling Syria to accept the agreement.
Speaking ahead of next week's U.N. General Assembly meeting, Kerry said Thursday that while "the complete removal of Syria's chemical weapons is possible here, through peaceful means," urgency is needed.
The U.N. Security Council must be prepared to act next week, Kerry said, citing the U.N. chemical weapons report about the attack.
While the report did not blame any side for the attack, Kerry said that it offered "crucial details," making the case implicating al-Assad "only ... more compelling." Russia called the report "distorted" and said it was based on insufficient information.
Despite the diplomacy, the United States hasn't dropped its threat of force and is wary, saying Syria could be using the diplomacy as a stalling tactic.
"Time is short. Let's not spend time debating what we already know," Kerry said.
The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have died since March 2011, a period in which harsh government crackdowns against protesters devolved into an all-out civil war.
Another 2 million people have fled their homeland, and more than 4.25 million have been displaced within Syria, the United Nations says.