Tuesday, August 27, 2013

US begins war on Syria as early as Thursday officials say


The guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107)

Source: Press TV

Senior American officials say the United States has planned to launch missile strikes against Syria “as early as Thursday” in order to punish Damascus over the alleged use of chemical weapons.

The unnamed officials told NBC News on Tuesday that the “three days” of strikes would be limited in scope, and aimed at “sending a message to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad rather than degrading his military capabilities.”

On Monday night, four US warships were deployed in the Mediterranean within cruise missile range of Syria.

American defense officials said if the US wants to send a message to Assad, the most likely military action would be a Tomahawk missile strike, launched from a ship in the Mediterranean.

The US military has beefed up equipment during the past weeks. Several nuclear-powered submarines are reportedly in the water near Syria, also cruise-missile equipped.

The report came one day after US Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem on Tuesday accused Kerry of lying about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, challenging Washington and its allies to provide evidence.

This is while the UN inspectors are still in Syria to investigate the chemical weapons attacks and they are not scheduled to leave the country until Sunday.

Russia and China have both warned against a US-led military intervention in Syria. Moscow says a military action would have "catastrophic consequences" for the entire region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minister David Cameron in a telephone call Monday that there was no evidence that an attack had taken place or who was responsible.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned on Monday that the use of force without a U.N. mandate would violate international law.

West, Arab leaders reach ‘consensus’ on Syria attack


The British Royal Navy's helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is deployed to the Mediterranean, on August 25, 2013

Source: Press TV

Western and Arab military leaders have reached a “consensus” on military intervention in Syria over accusations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, a Jordanian security official told German news agency, DPA.

“It was decided that should the international community be forced to act in Syria, the most responsible and sustainable response would be limited missile strikes,” the official said on condition of anonymity on Tuesday following a meeting held in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The military leaders led by Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey agreed to prepare for the strike as early as this week, the official added.

Meanwhile, the British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said UK armed forces are devising contingency plans for military action against the Arab country over the alleged use of chemical weapons.

The UK has been reportedly sending warplanes and military transporters to its airbase in Cyprus, situated near Syria.

US defense officials also say several navy destroyers have been deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean to be used against Syria upon an order of President Barack Obama.

“[The destroyers] are in position if needed, but they, to my knowledge, have received no tasking to this point, and that would come obviously from the White House,” an American military official said on condition of anonymity.
On August 21, the militants operating inside Syria and the foreign-backed Syrian opposition claimed that 1,300 people had been killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar.

However, the Syrian government categorically rejected the baseless claim, and announced later that the chemical attack had been actually carried out by the militants themselves as a false flag operation.

Damascus later allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors to the site of the chemical weapons attack near the Syrian capital on Monday, when they began taking samples from the victims.

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the outbreak of the violence.

Iran warns against military intervention in Syria


This file photo shows Takfiri militants operating in Syria

Source: Press TV
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has warned against the dire consequences of a potential foreign military intervention in Syria.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi said a potential military offensive against Syria will entail dangerous and dire consequences, which will impact the whole Middle East.

The Iranian official also censured Western countries for their double standards regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria, saying, “Wherever the terrorists serve Western interests, they (Western powers) support these groups.”

Araqchi said there are documents indicating that the Takfiri militants in Syria had carried out the recent chemical attacks in the country.

The Russian government has presented the documents to the United Nations Security Council, he said.

On August 23, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon was positioning military forces as part of “contingency options” provided to US President Barack Obama regarding Syria.

Hagel made the comments after the militants operating inside Syria and the foreign-backed Syrian opposition claimed on August 21 that 1,300 people had been killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar.

However, Damascus categorically rejected the baseless claim, and announced later that the chemical attack had actually been carried out by the militants themselves as a false flag operation.

Araqchi said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a victim of chemical arms, condemns the use of such weapons by any side.”

Visits by Omani leader and UN official to Iran

Commenting on the recent visit by Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, Araqchi said Tehran and Muscat discussed the expansion of bilateral ties and cooperation in the fields of energy, economy and culture during the trip.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed any connection between the Omani ruler’s trip to Tehran and that of UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, saying the two visits had different goals.

The Omani ruler arrived in Tehran at the head of a high-ranking delegation on a three-day official visit on Sunday as the first head of state to visit Iran since President Hassan Rouhani took office on August 4, 2013.

Feltman also visited Tehran on Monday to discuss regional issues, including the crisis in Syria, with Iranian officials.

Iran-Britain relations

Responding to a question regarding the possibility of the resumption of Iran-UK ties, Araqchi reiterated that reestablishing the relations between the two countries required time and expert negotiations.

He further emphasized that it must become evident that the British approach toward Iran has been changed.

Even under such circumstances, the resumption of the ties must be decided by Iran's Majlis, the foreign ministry spokesman added.

Nuclear negotiations

Araqchi said Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has made it clear that no one is to retreat from the rights of the Iranian nation with respect to the country’s nuclear energy program.

“What is important,” he said, “is entering the negotiations with new approaches, based on a win-win interaction that would result in acceptable outcomes for the Iranian nation.”

Obama reportedly considering two-day strike on Syria


Source: Russia Today
White House officials say the United States may launch a limited military strike on Syria as early as this Thursday as the intelligence community prepares to release a report justifying action and allies are rallied.

Senior officials in the Obama administration told the Washington Post for an article published on Tuesday that the White House is weighing a limited strike on Syria and said on condition of anonymity that “We’re actively looking at the various legal angles that would inform a decision.”

According to the Post, the likely response from Washington would be a sea-to-land strike from the Mediterranean that would last no longer than two days and would not be directed towards targets where the chemical weapons arsenal is believed to be stored.

But while an attack is all but imminent and will likely be launched from warships already mobilized in the Mediterranean by the week’s end, public support in the US has teetered towards nil as of late. The Obama administration says there is undeniable proof that chemical weapons were used on civilians outside of Damascus on August 21, but a five-day-long Reuters poll taken during that time concluded only nine percent of Americans favor intervention.

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 26, 2013 allegedly shows a UN inspectors (C) visiting a hospital in the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham. (AFP Photo)
Notwithstanding that lack of support, US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted Monday at a response which will jolt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ideally worsen the odds that his regime will implement chemical warheads again.

Despite insistence from Assad and allies in Russia that the Syrian government is not guilty of using chemical weapons, Sec. Kerry said during a press conference on Monday that “our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscious and guided by common sense.” Kerry called Assad’s reported attempt to cover-up the alleged use of chemical weapons “cynical” and said, “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”

One day earlier, Sec. Kerry admitted that Pres. Obama was considering his options with regards to a strike and was to meet with lawmakers in Congress as well as with international leaders. According to the Post article, however, the president may forego getting approval from Capitol Hill and will instead rely on striking Syria due to “undeniable,” as the White House puts it, war crimes.

The administration has said that it will follow international law in shaping its response,” Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan wrote for the Post, adding, “But much of international law is untested, and administration lawyers are also examining possible legal justifications based on a violation of international prohibitions on chemical weapons use, or on an appeal for assistance from a neighboring nation such as Turkey.” Additionally, the US has already received assurance of support from Britain, France and Turkey.

(FILE PHOTO) The guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) (L) and the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) transiting the Strait of Gibraltar on their way to the Mediterranean Sea. (AFP Photo / Jamie Cosby)
According to senior administration officials who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, Pres. Obama met with his national security team this past weekend and has ordered that a declassified intelligence report showing the rationale for any attack on Syria be released before it occurs.

While only nine percent of the respondents polled in the Reuters survey between August 19 and 23 said they want the White House to respond to Assad’s reported use of chemical weapons immediately, 25 percent said they would favor intervention if the US concludes with certainty that those warheads were illegally used. A Reuters/Ipsos poll from earlier in the month found that 30.2 percent of Americans would support intervention if Assad is linked to using chemical weapons.
Sec. Kerry said the indiscriminate slaughter of women and children apparently being carried out by the Assad regime constitutes a “moral obscenity.”


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