Updated: August 31, 2013 (6:40 PM est)
Saturday, August 31, 2013
22:25 GMT: Ahead of the congressional debate on a possible Syrian strike, US Secretary of State John Kerry will try to win the hearts of Americans by arguing the administration’s case on five major US talk shows, politico reported citing a White House source. Kerry is planning to appear on NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," CBS's "Face the Nation," CNN's "State of the Union" and "Fox News Sunday."
21:28 GMT: President Obama will discuss the case for action on Syria with world leaders at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia next week, US officials said.
20:40 GMT: Analyzing the data from the site of the alleged Syrian chemical attack last week will take up to 3 weeks, the UN investigative team announced Saturday.
"The evidence collected by the team will now undergo laboratory analysis and technical evaluation according to the established and recognized procedures and standards," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement. "These procedures may take up to three weeks."
The team which returned to The Hague from Syria included nine experts from the Organization for the OPC and three from the World Health Organization.
20:25 GMT: President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande have agreed “the international community must deliver a resolute message to the Assad regime - and others who would consider using chemical weapons - that these crimes are unacceptable and those who violate this international norm will be held accountable by the world," the White House said in a statement.
In a phone call on Saturday, Obama informed Hollande that he would seek congressional approval for US military action.
Hollande in his turn informed the US president of “his determination to act to sanction the regime," a source close to the French President told Reuters. "Each country's pace of action must above all be respected. It's important for the Americans to have the green light from Congress," the source said.
19:17 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmed Assi al-Jarba to underscore President Barack Obama's "commitment to holding the Assad regime accountable for its chemical weapons attack,” a senior State Department official told Reuters.
18:39 GMT: The US House of Representatives will consider the issue of a possible military strike against Syria when it returns from recess, starting September 9, the Republican delegates announced Saturday.
"We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.
"In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th," said the release. "This provides the President time to make his case to Congress and the American people."
Spokesperson Martin Nesirky went on to say that the UN team will return to Syria in order to examine all claims of chemical attacks.
15:36 GMT: Iran has warned that any strike on Syria by the US would trigger reactions "beyond" Syria, according to AFP
13:24 GMT: The White House said senior US administration officials would hold “unclassified conference calls” on Syria with the Senate Democratic Caucus and the Senate Republican Conference, Reuters reported.
The calls are part of "the Administration's consultations regarding the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons in Syria on August 21," an unnamed White House official said, adding that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would also take part in the conference calls.
Friday, August 30, 2013
The USS San Antonio is in the Mediterranean for a six-month stint assisting US Africa Command. The amphibious ship was told this week to head for a port call at a US naval base at the Greek island of Crete.
The ship joins five US Navy destroyers currently in the eastern Mediterranean that have capabilities of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, which US officials have said would be the likely method of attack on Syria.
18:23 GMT: The White House also released a map of Ghouta, displaying the areas affected by the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack.
However, Washington cannot yet declare with 100 per cent certainty that President Bashar Assad’s regime was responsible for the poison gas attack on August 21 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, the report said.
“Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the US intelligence community can take short of confirmation,” the report reads in part. “We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.”
In the Ghouta attack 1,429 people died, including 426 children, the report stated.
17:10 GMT: UN investigators have finished gathering samples of evidence related to the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb last week and are packing up to leave, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The experts will be leaving Syria on Saturday, but will return later to investigate several other alleged poison gas attacks that have taken place in the country during its 2-1/2-year civil war, he added.
16:14 GMT: NATO will not take part in military intervention in Syria, the alliance’s Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper.
“I don’t foresee any NATO role in an international response to the regime,” Rasmussen said, adding that individual countries would decide whether to take part in any military action.
He stressed there could be “no doubt” that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad was responsible for using toxic gas against civilians near Damascus on August 21, as it "had a store of chemical weapons and the means needed to perform an attack."
However, NATO’s Secretary-General said he didn’t think intervention was the best way to solve the crisis, adding that a political solution would be “sustainable.”
16:02 GMT: Nearly 80 percent of Americans say President Barack Obama should receive approval from Congress before ordering military intervention in Syria, according to a new poll by NBC News. Fifty percent of Americans believe the US should not intervene. Meanwhile, 50 percent support military action if it is limited to launching cruise missiles from US warships, but 44 percent said they oppose such intervention.
15:43 The UN investigators are finishing their investigation in Ghouta, the Damascus suburb that was the site of an alleged chemical attack, and will leave Syria by Saturday, ITAR-TASS news agency reported, saying the information was confirmed to their correspondent at the scene by UN spokesman Farhan Haq.
11:38 GMT: The Obama administration is to release declassified intelligence on chemical weapons in Syria today, a top official told CBS News.
Moscow “does not understand” why UN team should leave Syria after investigating only one site of an alleged chemical attack, statement issued by the Kremlin reads.
The poll performed by Huffington Post and YouGov showed that only 25 percent of the Americans believe that military response is required after the last week’s alleged chemical attack on civilians by the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.
Just 9 percent of Britons want to see their military taking part in the Syrian conflict, which has been underway since March 2011, with surveys in France and Germany also indicating public opposition towards Western intervention
Thursday, August 29, 2013
This is the second time, the permanent five met to discuss the UK submitted resolution on Syria. On Wednesday, the Security Council met to debate the draft resolution that could pave the way for military intervention in Syria.
Russia remains strongly opposed to foreign interference, citing that there is no proof that the Syrian regime was responsible for the alleged chemical attack last Wednesday.
The US and its European allies have made clear they think a military response is needed against the government that they thinks is responsible for the attack.
"Only the president can answer these questions, and it is clear that further dialogue and consultation with Congress, as well as communication with the American public, will be needed," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement adding that consultation with Congress and the public was needed.
According to an Office of the Director for National Intelligence report cited by the AP, the US evidence against the Syrian regime “is thick with caveats” and contains gaps that are getting in the way of putting the chemical weapon use directly in the hands of Assad.
Demonstrators with anti-war and pro-Syrian placards marched in the UK, France, Germany, Greece and Ukraine.
“We’re not considering analogous responses in any way… We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the Iraq war,” US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters during a daily briefing.
“Nobody is talking about a large-scale military intervention,” Harf added, ruling out American “boots on the ground” in Syria, as well as “any military options aimed at regime change.”
The White House also asked not to draw analogies with previous US involvement in the Middle East conflicts, or the pre-Iraq war debate about intelligence on the weapons of mass destruction.
The possible military response to Syria would be “very discrete and limited,” and not an open-ended conflict aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
“When the president reaches a determination about the appropriate response... and a legal justification is required to substantiate or to back up that decision, we’ll produce one on our own,”the spokesman said.
He added that the US government is “disappointed” with the Russian position in the UN Security Council, but that it will not influence President Obama’s decision.
“China supports the conduct of a fair, objective and professionally done [UN] investigation without exertion of any pressure from the outside,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, calling all the sides to “refrain from forecasting the results, let alone undertaking any kind of actions.”
Wang Yi also stressed that the international community should stick to diplomatic means when dealing with the conflict in Syria, and pointed out that military intervention will only worsen the Middle East crisis.
15:48 GMT: Italy would not join any military operation against Damascus without authorization from the UN Security Council, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has said.
While putting the blame for the alleged chemical weapons use on the Assad regime in an interview with RAI state radio, Letta stressed that Italy will not participate in a strike against Syria “if the United Nations doesn’t back it.”
“The government is striving to secure supplies of food, medicine and services,” al-Halqi was quoted as saying by the official SANA news agency, adding that Syria has “a strategic supply of all materials.”
Al-Halqi said he had called for necessary measures “to overcome any emergency situation and prevent enemies from disrupting state services, especially electricity, drinking water, communications, food and oil.”
President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel are expected to participate in the briefing.
“Evidence should precede decision, not vice versa,”Miliband said.
Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, also said that the UN Security Council should not be a “sideshow,” and that international support was crucial for any military action.
The ICRC said it was “appalled” by reports of chemical weapons being used near Damascus.
According to Magne Barth, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria “further escalation will likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which are already immense.”
The lack of medical supplies and personnel is already resulting in deaths in the area around Damascus, Barth said.
The interceptor aircrafts were sent to the UK airbase in Akrotiri, Cyprus, “to ensure the protection of UK interests and the defence of our sovereign base areas at a time of heightened tension in the wider region,” the ministry said in a statement.
“This is a movement of defensive assets operating in an air-to-air role only. They are not deploying to take part in any military action against Syria,” the statement said.
King Abdullah and Queen Rania reportedly flew to Rome specifically to discuss the Syrian crisis with the Pope, and had a 20-minute private conversation with His Holiness in the Vatican on Thursday
Speaking in Vienna, Ban said he had asked that the UN inspectors be “given a chance to continue their work in accordance with the mandate approved by [UN] member states.”
Ban also said he earlier discussed with US President Barack Obama how the UN and US could work together “to speed up the investigation process.”
He pledged that the full results of the investigation would be distributed among UN member countries, and repeated his call for a peaceful dialogue on Syria
Noting that the UN experts would deliver samples taken at the site of the chemical weapons incident near Damascus to a specialized laboratory in The Hague, ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said: “This should not interfere with the completion of the investigation process in the districts previously chosen in the framework of the agreement between the Syrian authorities and the UN Secretariat on August 13, 2013.”
Syria will repel any attack, crush Israeli-backed terrorists - Assad
“Syria, with its resistant people and valiant army, is determined to wipe out terrorism which is being backed by Israel and Western nations to serve their own purposes of sowing division in the region, fragmenting its people and forcing them into submission,” he added.
Earlier in the day, the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted Assad as saying that Damascus will emerge “victorious” in any possible military confrontation with the United States and its allies.
The US and other western countries have adopted the rhetoric of war against Syria over allegations that the Syrian government was behind a chemical attack near Damascus.
The call for military strike intensified after the militants operating inside Syria and the foreign-backed Syrian opposition claimed on August 21 that hundreds had been killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar. Syria has categorically rejected the claim as a false flag operation.
Top Iranian commander says attacking Syria will burn Israel down
The Iranian commander pointed out that in the more than two years since the beginning of the foreign-sponsored crisis in Syria, the country’s people have demonstrated a high sense of morale and resistance and the eventual outcome of such resistance will be a triumph in any war.
Firouzabadi, who also sits on Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, further noted that one of the reasons for the current rise of poverty and homelessness in the US is the huge expenses the American statesmen have imposed on their people by waging wars in other countries.
He then urged American thinkers and elites, as well as the international community, to look for ways to resolve the great problems that American rulers are imposing on the international community.
The Western calls for military action against Syria have intensified after the foreign-backed militants operating inside Syria claimed on August 21 that hundreds had been killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar.
A number of Western countries, including the United States, France, and the UK, were quick to engage in a major publicity campaign to promote war against Syria despite the fact that Damascus categorically rejected the claim on the use of chemical arms.
Media outlets reported US plans for likely surgical attacks, which would be in the form of “cruise-missile strikes,” and “could rely on four US destroyers in the Mediterranean [Sea].” The plan was said to be awaiting US President Barack Obama’s go-ahead.
Washington has said it is willing to go ahead with its plans for a strike on Syria even without the approval of the United Nations or despite opposition from its own people as revealed in the latest polls.