President Obama has finally issued a statement on Wednesday’s regime attacks near Damascus, including with chemical weapons, that killed at least 1360 people.

Obama used a CNN interview to say that signs pointed a “big event of grave concern”, which was “very troublesome”:

That starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.

On the surface, however, the President appeared to rule out any significant US moves

Sometimes what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region.

That sentence dovetails with the approach of General Martin Dempsey, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who ruled out any US military intervention — including arms to insurgents, airstrikes, and a no-fly zone — in a letter to a Congressman on Monday:

The use of U.S. military force can change the military balance. But it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.

However, an article in The Wall Street Journal this morning raises another possibility: Obama and his inner circle are being publicly cautious and non-committal while planning an aerial response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons:

Officers at the Pentagon on Thursday were updating target lists for possible airstrikes on a range of Syrian government and military installations, officials said, as part of contingency planning….

U.S. officials who described the military options being revised at the Pentagon stressed that their purpose wouldn’t be to topple the regime, but to punish Mr. Assad if there is conclusive evidence that the government was behind poison-gas attacks on Wednesday.

The Journal puts in the important caveat: “It was unclear if Mr. Obama would be prepared to use the options.”