Saturday, August 31, 2013

Obama to seek Congress approval for Syria strike

US President Barack Obama (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Source: Russia Today

Barack Obama will seek authorization from legislators before proceeding with a "limited" strike on Syria, in response to its government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. The president says the proposed strike is not "time-sensitive".

"Over the last several days, we have heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree," said Obama during a press statement outside the White House.

The President insisted that he did not need the approval of the legislative assembly, but would it make the case for the strike “stronger”.

Obama said that he sought to “make the Assad regime accountable” for the August 21 attack near Damascus in which the US says more than 1,500 civilians were killed with a toxic gas.

But he also said that the mission will be "effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now."

"We are prepared to strike whenever we choose," said the President.

Congress returns to session on September 9, and will immediately begin debating the Syrian operation. Obama said that he was heedful of a similar debate conducted in the UK parliament, in which the Conservative government, which endorses direct military action, was defeated by the opposition.

The President stated that he would not rely on unanimous consensus of the UN Security Council, which was necessary for a United Nations-backed operation, saying the body had been “paralyzed”. Russia and China have repeatedly voted against the West on Syria, and Vladimir Putin has said that claims Bashar Assad’s government was behind the gas attack were “a provocation”.

A UN expert team has completed a survey of the area affected by the August 21 incident, but has not yet presented its results. The US says that it has a “high confidence” in its assertion that government forces were to blame for the toxic gas release, based on intelligence reports, video clips and eyewitness accounts.

"History would judge us extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency," said Obama.

But the US leader insisted that the operation against "thug and murderer" Assad would not be “open-ended” and wouldn’t involve “boots on the ground”.

"I know well that we are weary of war. We ended a war in Iraq, we are ending another in Afghanistan."

"That's why we are not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else's war."

The Syrian government, which says that the opposition, who have fought a 30-month long rebellion, are behind the attack, has asserted that it has “its finger on the trigger to face any challenge or scenario they [the US] want to carry out.”

US should present Syria evidence to Security Council - Putin

Video Source: Russia Today

A handout image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows smoke above buildings following what Syrian rebels claim to be a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013. (AFP Photo / Ammar al-Arbini

News Source: Russia Today

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared ‘utter nonsense’ the idea that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own people and called on the US to present its supposed evidence to the UN Security Council.

Putin has further called the Western tactic a ‘provocation.’

Washington has been basing its proposed strategy of an attack on Syria on the premise that President Bashar Assad’s government forces have used chemical agents, while Russia finds the accusations unacceptable and the idea of performing a military strike on the country even more so. Especially as it would constitute a violation of international law, if carried out without the approval of the UN Security Council.

Further to this, Putin told Obama that he should consider what the potential fallout from a military strike would be and to take into consideration the suffering of innocent civilians.

The Russian president has expressed certainty that the strategy for a military intervention in Syria is a contingency measure from outside and a direct response to the Syrian government’s recent combat successes, coupled with the rebels’ retreat from long-held positions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)

“Syrian government forces are advancing, while the so-called rebels are in a tight situation, as they are not nearly as equipped as the government,” Putin told ITAR-TASS. He then laid it out in plain language:

“What those who sponsor the so-called rebels need to achieve is simple – they need to help them in their fight… and if this happens, it would be a tragic development,” Putin said.

Russia believes that any attack would, firstly, increase the already existing tensions in the country, and derail any effort at ending the war.

"Any unilateral use of force without the authorisation of the U.N. Security Council, no matter how 'limited' it is, will be a clear violation of international law, will undermine prospects for a political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict in Syria and will lead to a new round of confrontation and new casualties," said the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, adding that the threats issued by Washington “in the absence of any proof” of chemical weapons use.

On Friday, Washington said a plan for a limited military response was in the works to punish Assad for a “brutal and flagrant” chemical attack that allegedly killed more than 1400 people in the capital Damascus 10 days ago.

The Syrian government has been denying all allegations, calling the accusation preposterous and pointing its own accusations against rebel forces, especially Al-Qaeda-linked extremists who have wreaked havoc on the country in the two years since the start of the civil war.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

US prepared to attack Syria without coalition - Officials

US President Barack Obama (L) and British Prime Minister David Cameron

Source: Press TV

American officials say the Obama administration is ready for unilateral military action in Syria, after British lawmakers rejected a government motion in support of military assault against the Arab country.

The call for a quick international strike against Syria faced a major pushback Thursday, when British lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 285-272 against the motion proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Unlike the military offensive against Libya in 2011 which was carried out by a large coalition, officials said US President Barack Obama is prepared to act in coming days without Britain.

"Here, what's being contemplated is of such a limited and narrow nature that it's not as if there's a similar imperative for bringing in different capabilities from different countries," a senior administration official said, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

"We believe it's important that there be diplomatic support from key allies, and we think we're getting that."

While, intelligence officials have indicated that the US has “no smoking gun” proving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons on militant strongholds last week, the White House says it is convinced Damascus was responsible for the attack.

A report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence has also concluded that it does not have proof President Assad ordered the chemical attack, US intelligence officials said.

Before the vote in British Parliament, White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested that Washington was willing to go solo on Syria.

"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," Earnest said.

Also on Thursday, President Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the issue of chemical attack in Syria should be addressed by the United Nations Security Council, signaling Germany's hesitation to back a US request for military action.

The US has beefed up its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean. According to media reports, four US warships and a submarine are in the region and a fifth is on the way. All destroyers are cruise-missile equipped.


Imperial Terrorist War Plans Ongoing - Syria

Updated: August 31, 2013 (6:40 PM est)


Source: Russia Today
Follow Live Updates at this link:

Syria 'chemical weapons' crisis 

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."

16:50 GMT: A UN spokesperson has announced that the UN is not pulling out of Syria and that humanitarian work in the country will continue. The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon will be briefed by the head of the chemical weapons team on Sunday.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky went on to say that the UN team will return to Syria in order to examine all claims of chemical attacks.
15:37 GMT: The Syrian Prime Minister has stated readiness for any possible foreign strikes against it, saying that the country has its "finger on the trigger."

15:36 GMT:
Iran has warned that any strike on Syria by the US would trigger reactions "beyond" Syria, according to AFP

14:07 GMT: Thousands streaming towards Trafalgar Square to oppose Obama’s war in Syria.

14:05 GMT: UN inspectors are heading to the Hague with samples taken at sites of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria.

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.
12:13 GMT: Foreign ministers from Arab countries are expected to discuss Syria at a meeting in Cairo on Sunday, Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli told reporters. The negotiations were initially planned for Tuesday, but he said the meeting had been brought forward "in light of rapid developments in the Syria situation and based on the request of several Arab states."
09:28 GMT: The Syrian government said that it expected a military attack imminently, and it was ready to respond in kind.
"We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate at any moment," AFP cited a Syrian security official, who wished to remain anonymous, as saying.
04:55 GMT: UN chemical weapons experts have reportedly crossed into neighboring Lebanon after finishing the investigation in Damascus.
03:01 GMT: UN chemical inspectors have departed from their hotel in central Damascus early Saturday morning and are currently on their way to Lebanon.
01:39 GMT: All Senate Republicans will be briefed on the potential US involvement in Syria during a conference call with the White House Saturday after a request from Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, according to a new report.
McConnell has met with White House officials to discuss the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons, but said Friday it is important for every Republican lawmaker to learn the details of the situation.
US President Obama met with top Congressional leaders in a conference call Thursday to discuss the possibility of US forces launching a missile strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad. After the call Obama said the attack was a “challenge to the world” that threatens US allies in the region.

Friday, August 30, 2013

23:55 GMT: A ship carrying several hundred US Marines and V-22 Ospreys received order to remain in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, though officials told ABC News it is not yet part of planning for a potential strike against Syria.

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.
22:34 GMT: The United Nations Security Council may have to wait as long as two weeks before reviewing the final results of an analysis of samples taken from where chemical weapons were used in Syria, diplomats told Reuters on Friday.
22:13 GMT: Washington’s statements threatening to use military force against Syria unilaterally are unacceptable, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.
21:45 GMT: US House Speaker John Boehner has not ruled out calling the House of Representatives back to Washington for a vote on Syrian intervention, his spokesman told NBC News. Congress is currently on a five-week recess.

21:30 GMT: Iraqi Shi’ite militia group al-Nujaba claims it will target United States interests in Iraq should the US carry out military strikes in Syria, Reuters reported.

"All their interests and facilities in Iraq and the region will be targeted by our militants if the United States insists on attacking Syria," said a spokesman for al-Nujaba, a group consisting in part of Shi’ites who have fought alongside pro-Syrian government forces. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

21:00 GMT: US President Barack Obama discussed Syrian options Friday in phone calls with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, according to top US officials. The consultations follow Thursday’s vote by the British Parliament to reject participation in any potential strikes against Syria.

19:05 GMT: Turkey PM Tayyip Erdogan says any operation must follow the Kosovo model, and include a force on the ground. "We are not happy with a limited operation. It shouldn't just be a day or two of strikes, and then nothing. We need regime change in Syria."

18:40 GMT: Obama has stated that the US is still in the planning process regarding a response to the situation in Syria. He stated that his preference would have been for the international community to move forward.

He called the alleged chemical attack "a challenge to the world" and a threat to security interests. While the US President has made no final decision on a course of action, he stated that the government was contemplating a "limited narrow act."

18:23 GMT:
The White House also released a map of Ghouta, displaying the areas affected by the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack


17:36 GMT: A report released Friday says that US intelligence services have “high confidence” Syrian government forces used chemical weapons multiple times during the last year.

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.

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.

10:20 GMT: The German government has ruled out participation in any military action. It will not consider any "military participation and still aren't doing so," government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

09:58 GMT: Russia has said it will make all efforts to stave off any “military scenario” against Syria.

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.

09:41 GMT: United Nations inspectors have headed to a hospital in central Damascus to meet local doctors, Reuters reports, citing a witness who added that team members “were not carrying body armor, indicating they would not cross into rebel-held territory.”

09:20 GMT: France says despite a British parliamentary vote against military action in Syria, it may take measures against the ruling regime for an apparent chemical weapons attack even without the UK’s involvement.

Speaking to French daily Le Monde, President Hollande did not rule out that military intervention in Syria may take place by Wednesday, when the parliament is to meet in an extraordinary session to discuss the issue.

08:42 GMT: Al Arabiya reports opposition claims that the Syrian government has relocated its political offices to schools and universities, to be safer in case a strike by the West takes place.

08:38 GMT: The Syrian army could possess the S-300 surface-to-air missiles in its arsenal – according to Al Arabiya.
08:30 GMT: There’s no public support for the Western military intervention in Syria as the performed in the US and its allied states reveal that people object their country’s troops fighting in yet another the Middle Eastern war.

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

23:13 GMT: President Obama is prepared to decide on military action against Syria on his own, “in the best interests of the US,” the White House said in a statement after the British Parliament rejected a motion approving the UK’s military involvement in the anti-Assad coalition.

22:32 GMT: Any possibility of British involvement in a military campaign in Syria has been effectively ruled out after British lawmakers voted down the prospect in parliament, costing the US the nation’s closest ally in a potential strike.

20:48 GMT: The Russian called meeting of the UN Security Council on the developing situation in Syria has failed to achieve results on Thursday. The discussions which lasted for less than an hour ended as sides failed to reach an agreement with the ambassadors of China, France, Britain, Russia and the United States gradually leaving the talks.

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.

20:36 GMT: In preparation for a possible strike on Syria, President Barack Obama had a phone discussion with the Speaker of the House John Boehner, a spokesman for Boehner said Thursday. The discussion focused on issues Boehner raised in his letter to the President, ranging from possible objectives to legal premises for such activity.

"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

19:59 GMT: Several US officials, including one senior member of the intelligence community, told AP on condition of anonymity that there were noticeable holes in US intelligence assessments, which the White House said would prove the Syrian government’s responsibility for the use of chemical weapons on August 21.

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.

19:38 GMT: People across Europe have protested against the Western powers’ possible military action against Syria.

Demonstrators with anti-war and pro-Syrian placards marched in the UK, France, Germany, Greece and Ukraine

19:01 GMT: US officials have rejected comparisons of the possible strike against Syria to the war in Iraq.

“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

18:30 GMT: The US would provide its own legal justification for a response to chemical weapons use in Syria, if necessary, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a briefing.

“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

17:43 GMT: China has spoken against military intervention in Syria and urged other nations not to put pressure on the UN investigation team.

“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

17:14 GMT: The UN investigators will return to Syria and continue investigation of the use of chemical weapons after reporting to UN headquarters, UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

Meanwhile, the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the investigators have not yet determined what substance was used in the alleged attack and are awaiting the results of the analysis.

Brahimi refused to comment on reports of an imminent Western strike on Syria, saying he has “no knowledge” of the issue.
17:00 GMT: The five permanent members of the UN Security Council will meet again Thursday to discuss the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, Reuters cited a UN diplomatic source as saying.

The meeting of Russian, Chinese, French, US and UK representatives will take place at 18:30 GMT, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The meeting was reportedly requested by Russia.
16:38 GMT: Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government supports military in Syria over chemical weapons, but that Canada had no plans to send troops.

Harper said there was a risk the alleged chemical weapons attack could set an “extremely dangerous precedent” if the international community did not act.
16:09 GMT: The US Navy has deployed a fifth destroyer to the eastern Mediterranean ahead of a possible strike on Syria, AFP cited a US Defense Department official as saying.

The USS Stout, a guided missile destroyer, has entered the Mediterranean to relieve another ship, the USS Mahan, the official said on condition of anonymity.

He added that both ships might remain in place for an unspecified period of time.

Other US destroyers in the region – the USS Ramage, the USS Barry and the USS Gravely – are ready to launch Tomahawk missiles toward Syria should US President Barack Obama give the order.

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.”

15:27 GMT: Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi has announced the government has been mobilizing its resources to preserve essential services in case of a military attack by Western states.

“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.”

15:09 GMT: UK Prime Minister David Cameron said there was “no 100% certainty about who is responsible” for the use of chemical weapons in Syria, adding he was personally convinced the regime is to blame, and that a judgment still has to be made based on “understanding” of the situation in Syria

15:00 GMT: US members of Congress are set to be briefed on the situation in Syria.

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.

14:45 GMT: Britain’s opposition leader, Ed Miliband, urged the UK parliament not to “rush to judgment” when deciding on possible military action against Syria.

“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.

14:24 GMT: British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “unthinkable” for the UK to launch military action against Syria if there was strong opposition in the UN Security Council.

However, Cameron then went on to justify a military operation against Assad, saying that a strong response to the use of chemical weapons would “only strengthen the political process” leading to the solution of the conflict in Syria.

14:18 GMT: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that further escalation of the conflict in Syria will only worsen the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

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.

13:44 GMT: Britain’s Defense Ministry has confirmed that six RAF Typhoon jets have been deployed to Cyprus as a “prudent and precautionary measure.”

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.

13:35 GMT: People protesting against possible UK military involvement in Syria and media reporters have gathered around the British parliament building as MPs in the House of Commons start their debate of military action against Syrian President Assad

13:24 GMT: Damascus is concerned that Syrian President Bashar Assad may be targeted by a drone strike, Itar-Tass quotes sources cited in the regional media as saying. The Syrian government does not believe Western governments’ statements that they aren’t seeking to topple Assad’s regime, one source said. Others have been reporting relocations of troops and military hardware at military bases near Damascus to minimize the possible losses in case of Western airstrikes. Damascus has also reportedly beefed up security at government buildings and the ruling party’s offices.

13:09 GMT: Pope Francis and Jordan’s King Abdullah have agreed that a peaceful dialogue among Syrians with the backing of the international community is the “only option” to resolve the conflict in Syria, the Vatican said in a statement.

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

12:31 GMT: The UK government on Thursday published internal legal advice saying that it was legally entitled to launch a military strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces – even if the UN Security Council blocked such action.

The UK also revealed its intelligence material on the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week, saying it had no doubt the attack took place and that it was “highly likely” that the Syrian government was behind it. The government said it had “some intelligence” proving Assad’s responsibility.

12:17 GMT: The UN inspectors will continue investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria in accordance with the international agreement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

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

12:05 GMT: Russia’s Foreign Ministry has urged the UN team investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria to also investigate the sites of other alleged attacks.

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.”

11:29 GMT: Syrian President Bashar Assad said that his country would defend itself against any attack. "The threats of direct aggression against Syria will only increase our commitment to our deep-rooted principles and the independent will of our people. Syria will defend itself in the face of any aggression," Syrian state TV quoted Assad as telling a delegation of Yemeni politicians.

09:27 GMT: French President François Hollande said that everything should be done to seek a political solution to the Syrian crisis, Reuters reported.

09:03 GMT: The UN team investigating chemical weapons attacks in Syria is set to leave the country early Saturday and report immediately to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he said.

08:15 GMT: Russia is to send an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to the eastern Mediterranean in the next few days, Interfax news agency cited military sources as saying. The move is a planned rotation of vessels and there are no plans to boost the Russian Navy’s presence in the area, the source said. Russia’s Defense Ministry has not confirmed the move, however.

06:20 GMT: Calls for military intervention in Syria are an "undisguised challenge" to Charter of the United Nations, the Russian Foreign Ministry indicated.

05:50 GMT: Syrian government forces have retreated from the airport zone in Damascus amid reports that the families of Syrian military elite are evacuating to Lebanon.


Syria will repel any attack, crush Israeli-backed terrorists - Assad

Syrian President Bashar Assad (AFP/SANA

Source: Press TV

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says Damascus will defend itself against any aggression, amid the escalating Western war rhetoric against the Arab country.

President Assad made the remarks on Thursday while receiving a delegation of Yemeni politicians in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syria's state television said.

"Syria will defend itself in the face of any aggression, and threats will only increase its commitment to its principles and its independence," Assad said.

The Syrian president also noted that Syria is determined to crush the Israeli-backed terrorists operating against his government.

“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

Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi

Source: Press TV

The chief of staff of Iran's Armed Forces has emphasized that a potential military attack against Syria by the US and its allies will have a ruinous impact on the Israeli regime.

"Any military measure against Syria will draw the Zionists deep in the fire [as well],” said Major General Hassan Firouzabadi in an address on the recent American military threats against the Syrian nation and government on Thursday.

Further elaborating on the ramifications of a potential new military move in the region, the top military commander said, “This will be a huge damage to the human community and its effects will not be merely limited to the Muslim community.”

He stated, “The US, Britain and the rest of their allies will suffer greatly by deploying their military forces to the region and Syria.”

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.



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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