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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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Tension rises in Israel

Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News  Oliver Knox - Yahoo News

Key lawmakers will get a classified briefing from the Obama administration on Thursday regarding Syria’s alleged slaughter of civilians using chemical weapons last week, two U.S. officials said.
The briefing, to be held by conference call because Congress is still out on its August recess, is expected to include the chairmen and ranking members of key committees as well as the top leaders from each party in each chamber, the sources said. One of the officials specified that chairs of the House and Senate committees on armed services, foreign relations and intelligence would likely take part.
The officials asked not to be identified by name or title in order to discuss a classified hearing that has not yet taken place. It was not clear which officials would brief lawmakers.
Obama aides have said that they would brief Congress on their case against Syrian President Bashar Assad before making public portions of a formal intelligence finding laying out evidence to buttress the president’s charge that the regime carried out the Aug. 21 attack.
The White House declined to confirm the timing of the briefing.
"The President continues to review options with his national security team, and senior administration officials from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and Intelligence Community are continuing to reach out to bipartisan House and Senate Leadership, Leadership of the relevant Committees, and other Members of Congress," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. "The views of the Congress are important to this process, so we will be continuing to engage with them as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response." President Barack Obama faces pressure from some lawmakers to seek formal authorization from Congress before launching any military action against Assad’s forces.
The White House has refused to commit to doing so — and is unlikely to do so, given that low public support for intervention make the vote politically risky and that Republican House Speaker John Boehner has requested only “meaningful consultation.”
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Benjamin Netanyahu / AP

A pre-planned two-day Israeli Defense Forces drill took place Tuesday in the Golan Heights, Israel Hayom reports.
Israel is readying itself for a possible U.S. military action in Syria. Israeli Prime Minister called a surprise meeting of the security cabinet to discuss Syria on Tuesday, according to Army Radio.
Additionally, the Knesset Homefront Preparedness Subcommittee will hold a special meeting to examine readiness on Wednesday.
Israel Hayom reports on other actions taking place as Israel readies itself for a possible attack:
Patriot anti-missile batteries in Haifa have been put on alert and aimed toward the north. During the First Gulf War in 1991, Patriot missile batteries in Israel were used to intercept Scud missiles fired by Iraq.
The Patriot system is part of Israel’s multilayered aerial defense network, which also includes the Iron Dome, among other components.
Education Minister Shay Piron said on Tuesday that Israel’s school system is prepared for any deterioration of the security situation vis-à-vis Syria.
On August 28, 2013 by Conspiracy Realism in ,    No comments







 Iranian officials have issued warnings that if a U.S.-led coalition attacks Syria Israel could find itself in the line of fire.
“If such an incident takes place, which is impossible, the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria,” Iran’s Fars new agency quoted senior parliamentary official Hossein Sheikholeslam as saying on Monday. Iranian officials often refer to Israel as the “Zionist regime” or “Zionist entity”.)
Sheikholeslam’s warning follows a similar one from a senior Syrian official on Monday: Khalaf Muftah, a former assistant information minister in Syria, claimed that Damscus would hold Israel as being “behind the (Western) aggression and (it) will therefore come under fire,” reports the Times of Israel.
On Tuesday another Iranian parliamentarian, Mansur Haqiqatpur, also emphasized the threat of retaliation against Israel in the event of a military strike on Syria. If it were to occur, “the flames of outrage of the region’s revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime,” said Haqiqatpur.
The series of threats come in the wake of increased momentum towards military intervention in Syria from Western governments. The Obama administration, as well as Britain and France, says that there is “undeniable” evidence that President Bashar Assad’s regime used chemical weapons on civilians last week, leaving hundreds dead.
As the U.K. works on a draft resolution it will put to the UN Security Council on Wednesday “authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians” in Syria, UN weapons inspectors have resumed their investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attack last week.
Meanwhile, reports have emerged over the weekend that Israelis are ramping up gas mask distribution. The Israel Postal Company has seen a fourfold rise in gas masks requests across the country since news broke of the suspected use of nerve agents by Assad.


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Ali Khamenei / AP

Adam Kredo
freebeacon.com
August 28, 2013

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of “dire consequences” should the United States decide to launch a strike on Syria, according to regional media reports.
In his first public comments since the Obama administration hinted it would take action in Syria, Khamenei warned that the United States would be “severely harmed by pursuing warmongering policies against the Muslim country,” according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
“The U.S. threats and possible intervention in Syria is a disaster for the region and if such an act is done, certainly, the Americans will sustain damage like when they interfered in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Khamenei was quoted as saying in a Wednesday meeting with Iran’s newly installed cabinet.
“Starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences,” Khamenei said.
Iranian officials have significantly ramped up their rhetoric against the United States in recent days following reports that the Obama administration is considering military options in Syria.
Iran has acted as embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chief regional defender, providing military and diplomatic coverage to the regime as it battles rebel forces.
Iran says that it will send a parliamentary delegation to Syria on Saturday to study “developments” in the country, Fars reported.
Khamenei’s comments are a signal that Tehran could launch a proxy war against America should it enter Syria.
As tensions mount in the region, Iran has found itself pitted against al Qaeda terrorists who are backing the rebel fighters.
Tehran warned its Arab neighbors, including Turkey, of getting involved in the Syrian conflict.
Speaking directly to Tehran’s “Turkish friends,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi said Arab action against Syria would only benefit Israel.
“Be careful about what is going on in Syria as any attack against that country will serve the interests of the Zionist regime,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by Fars. “The entire region should keep vigilant and don’t allow further spread of the crisis by indigested measures.”
Israel has become a central target for Iran as it pressures the West against military action in Syria.
A top Iranian lawmaker on Tuesday said that Israel would be the “first victim” of any U.S.-led attack on Syria.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem also blamed Israel for regional instability.
“The war effort led by the United States and their allies will serve the interests of Israel and secondly the Al-Nusra Front,” al-Mualem said in Damascus late Tuesday, following reports that the United States is laying the groundwork for military action that could take place as soon as Thursday.
Al-Mualem added that “any strike would serve the interests of al Qaeda-linked rebel groups,” according to Fars.
The United Nations’ Arab League has taken a cautious approach to the situation as both Iranian and Syrian officials step up their war rhetoric.
The Arab League’s Envoy for Syria would not admit on Wednesday that chemical weapons had been used, referring only to “some form of substance” during a press conference with reporters.
Arab League spokesman Lakhdar Brahimi urged the United States to hold off on a military strike.
“I think I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy,” Brahimi said. “What they will decide I don’t know, but certainly international law is very clear, the Security Council has to be brought in.”
U.N. inspectors must determine exactly what happened before military action takes place, Brahimi said.
“They have come back with a lot of samples; they talked also to doctors and witnesses,” he said. “They are in another area just now, as we speak, and we are waiting to see what they are going to tell us.”
On August 28, 2013 by Conspiracy Realism   No comments
US F-15E Strike Eagles of the 4th Fighter Wing taxi down a runway on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on April 16, 2012

AFP

Bashar al-Assad's friends and foes headed for a showdown at the United Nations Wednesday, as Britain pushes for a resolution to pave the way for military strikes over suspected chemical attacks.
The meeting comes as the United States and its allies pressed their case for likely military action against the Syrian president's regime, despite stern warnings against intervention from key Damascus supporters Russia and Iran.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would present a resolution "condemning the chemical weapons attack by Assad" to a meeting of the Security Council's five permanent members in New York on Wednesday.
"We've always said we want the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria. Today they have an opportunity to do that," he said via Twitter.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged the Council to "find the unity to act... to use its authority for peace".
But the prospects for a quick, much less positive, vote on the draft resolution look dim.
Close Damascus ally Russia, which has already used its veto to block resolutions condemning Syria, said Wednesday it was premature for the Council to act before a UN team inspecting the sites of the alleged attacks releases its findings.
UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi confirmed that chemical "substances" were used in the attacks that are thought to have killed hundreds of people on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.
And inspectors headed Wednesday to Eastern Ghouta, a site of one of the reported attacks, after delaying their work for a day over security concerns.
Brahimi added that any military action must have UN approval.
"I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council," he said.
However, such as is the case when NATO forces helped rebels oust Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, there is a precedent for acting without the United Nations.
A senior US official said Washington has ruled out unilateral action and is conferring with allies on potential punitive strikes that could last for more than a day.
"Any military action would not be unilateral. It would include international partners," the senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
US President Barack Obama's deputies are holding discussions with Turkey, Jordan and other partners on contingency plans in preparation for any retaliation by Syria in the event of US-led action, the official said.
"There's a possibility that the Syrian government would use chemical weapons again. I don't think you can discount that," said the official.
But if the United States took no military action, then it would send a dangerous signal to other regimes with chemical stockpiles, including North Korea, the official said.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the American military was already prepared to act if Obama gave the order -- though White House aides said no final decision had been taken.
"We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel told the BBC. "We are ready to go, like that."
A military campaign in Syria is expected to be limited in scope, likely to last only several days and to target military sites but not chemical weapons stocks themselves, sources in Washington said.
French President Francois Hollande said his country was "ready to punish" those behind the chemical attacks and that he would meet the leader of Syria's main opposition bloc on Thursday.
But Russia warned of the consequences of any possible military action.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by the ministry as saying "a military solution will lead only to a further destabilisation of the situation in the country and the region".
And supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran, the Assad regime's chief regional ally, warned on Wednesday that "US intervention will be a disaster for the region," state television reported him as saying.
"The region is like a gunpowder depot. (Its) future cannot be predicted" in case of a strike on Syria, he added.
The developments came after US Vice President Joe Biden said the chemical attacks could only have been perpetrated by Assad's forces.
"There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria -- the Syrian regime," said Biden.
Analysts expect to see cruise missiles launched from US and allied submarines, ships and possibly warplanes, firing into Syria from outside its waters and airspace.
Syria's UN ambassador hit back at the accusations against the regime, repeating an assertion that the alleged attacks had been carried out by rebels.
"Many facts tend to prove the innocence of the Syrian government, which has been subject to false accusations," Bashar al-Jaafari told state media.
Such facts also showed that "armed groups have used chemical weapons in order to bring about military intervention and aggression against Syria," he said.
His remarks came as rebel fighters said they fired Katyusha rockets at government positions in central Damascus on Wednesday in retaliation for the alleged chemical attacks on civilians.
The conflict erupted in March 2011 with peaceful anti-regime protests but, following a brutal crackdown on those demonstrations, it evolved into a war that has killed more than 100,000 people and created millions of refugees.
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Prime Minister Donald Tusk says that Poland "does not plan to participate in any kind of intervention in Syria."
As the U.S. and its allies appeared to be moving toward punitive military action, Tusk said Wednesday that Poland's government is not convinced that a strike would "stop the crimes."
Tusk added, "No one in the world today, including me, has the solution ready on how to break this chain of crime in Syria."



Associated Press
On August 28, 2013 by Conspiracy Realism in ,    1 comment




(Reuters) - Syria's deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday that the United States, Britain and France helped "terrorists" use chemical weapons in Syria, and that the same groups would soon use them against Europe.
 

Speaking to reporters outside the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, Faisal Maqdad said he had presented U.N. chemical weapons inspectors with evidence that "armed terrorist groups" had used sarin gas in all the sites of alleged attacks.
"We repeat that the terrorist groups are the ones that used (chemical weapons) with the help of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, and this has to stop," he said. "This means these chemical weapons will soon be used by the same groups against the people of Europe," he added.
(Reporting by Marwan Makdesi; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Jon Boyle)

 
 
 
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Jordan will not be used as a launching pad for attacks on Syria and the kingdom favors a diplomatic solution to the crisis, a Jordanian government spokesman said Wednesday.

Associated Press


A U.S.-led strike on Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Assad's regime likely would involve cruise missile attacks from the sea, which would not need to cross or make use of Jordanian territory.
But the remarks underline the U.S. ally's efforts to avoid further friction with its larger neighbor for fear that Assad or his Iranian backers could retaliate.
The remarks come a day after Jordan hosted a meeting of top commanders from Western and Middle Eastern countries, including some that are likely to participate in a military action.
"Jordan will not be a launching pad for any military action against Syria," said spokesman Mohammad Momani, who is also the country's information minister.
He said Jordan prefers a "diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis" and called on the international community to "consolidate efforts in that regard."
Tuesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with Arab and Western peers to discuss ways to bolster the security of Syria's neighbors against possible attacks, chemical or other, by Assad's regime, a Jordanian security official said. Army chiefs of staff from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada also attended the meeting in Jordan.
Syrian state radio, quoting an unnamed political commentator, accused Jordan in news bulletins Tuesday of participating in a U.S.-led "aggression" for hosting the meeting.
Similar meetings took place earlier this year in Britain and Qatar. The Jordanian official said more meetings were planned in the near future. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to speak publicly to journalists.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled into Jordan from Syria. On Wednesday, a representative of the United Nations' refugee agency said as many as 200 enter Jordan daily, but none had come from the area affected by the alleged chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Syria's capital, Damascus.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, condemned a possible U.S. military intervention in Syria.
"It will not help the Syrian people, but aims first and foremost at boosting American and Zionist interests by weakening and dividing Syria and imposing a political regime that would be a puppet to the Americans," the group said in a statement.
The group also warned of the "serious repercussions" on the Palestinian issue, saying a weakened Syria would allow Israel to impose "self-tailored solutions to the lingering Arab-Israeli conflict."
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Iranian lawmakers and commanders issued stark warnings to the United States and its allies on Tuesday, saying any military strike on Syria would lead to a retaliatory attack on Israel fanned by “the flames of outrage.”
The warnings came against a backdrop of rising momentum among Western governments for a military intervention in the Syria conflict over what the United States, Britain, France and others have called undeniable evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used banned chemical weapons on civilians last week, killing hundreds. Mr. Assad has accused the insurgents who are trying to topple him of using such munitions.
Iran, which itself came under chemical weapons assault by Iraq during its eight-year war in the 1980s, has been a loyal ally of the Syrian government. Iranian hard-liners often say Syria is Iran’s first trench in a potential war with hostile Western powers. Iran has blamed Israel for the conflict in Syria, saying Israel is trying to bring down Mr. Assad.
“In case of a U.S. military strike against Syria, the flames of outrage of the region’s revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime,” the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Mansur Haqiqatpur, an influential member of Parliament, as saying on Tuesday.

At the same time Iran has always taken the moral high ground on the issue of chemical weapons, actively opposing their use. If it turns out that Mr. Assad’s side deployed the weapons, it will be difficult for Iranian leaders to explain their support for the Syrian president to their people, analysts point out.
A potential military intervention by the United States in Syria also represents a test for Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, who condemned the use of chemical weapons on his Twitter account on Monday, but stopped short of blaming either side in the Syrian conflict.
On Tuesday the new foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, stressed that Iran condemned the use of chemical weapons by any group. He also said Iran had pressed the Syrian government to assist the United Nations weapons inspectors who are in the country conducting an inquiry.
There is no evidence, he said, that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government. But in remarks quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Mr. Zarif said there was some evidence that such munitions had been given to what he called Takfiri groups, referring to Syria’s insurgents. Takfiri is a disparaging term used by Muslims for extremist groups that accuse others of apostasy.
Many analysts close to Mr. Rouhani privately say that Syria is an obstacle to change inside Iran. The country’s hard-liners say any attack on Syria is in fact an act of war against Iran, and point to a support pact in which both nations have vowed to defend each other in case of a military attack by a third country.
“Naturally Iran does not want to lose Syria as a foothold in the region,” said Davoud Hermidas-Bavand, a professor of international relations at Allameh Tabatabaei University in Tehran.
“But in the long run a solution for Syria will mean that officials in Tehran can soften their stance towards the U.S.,” he said. “It means we would have a more open domestic atmosphere.”
Iran is widely seen as having close coordination with Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Lebanese organization that is an ideological ally. Both regard Israel as a common enemy, and Hezbollah is reported to have many rockets deployed in southern Lebanon capable of striking deep into Israeli territory.
Iran and Hezbollah are heavily engaged in helping Mr. Assad’s side in the Syria conflict. Iranian military advisers have been seen in Syria, and Iran provides military support and training to Hezbollah fighters, who have joined the Syrian armed forces in recent months retake rebel-held areas.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, meeting with visiting Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman in Tehran on Monday, predicted the Syrian conflict would escalate far beyond its borders if other regional nations continued to aid the Syrian opposition.
“Their supporters must know that this fire will finally engulf them as well,” Mr. Khamenei said, according to the Mehr news agency.
On August 28, 2013 by Conspiracy Realism   1 comment
 

BREAKING NOW.

VERY interesting. According to Egyptian TV, Pinochet Sisi - the House of Saud protege - is NOT allowing US and UK warships to pass through the Suez Canal; they will, obviously, attack Syria. Cairo is AGAINST Obama's Tomahawk war.

Let's see if this ends up sinking the $1.3billion in military aid from the US - which to a great extent translates into Egypt giving priority to US ships across Suez.

Obviously the House of Saud and the UAE could easily make up for the $1.3billion. And Egypt could buy Russian weapons - as Bandar and Putin discussed in Moscow. Sisi would NEVER do this without Saudi approval (after all, they are paying the bills).

Shadowplay is on, BIG TIME, at all levels.

https://m.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377/posts/10151842038886678

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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Officials tell NBC News they have intelligence intercepts tying the chemical attacks to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The White House is now waiting for a report from the U.N. team that arrived at the attack site Monday. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
The U.S. could hit Syria with three days of missile strikes, perhaps beginning Thursday, in an attack meant more to send a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad than to topple him or cripple his military, senior U.S. officials told NBC News on Tuesday.
The State Department fed the growing drumbeat around the world for a military response to Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons against rebels Aug. 21 near Damascus, saying that while the U.S. intelligence community would release a formal assessment within the week, it was already "crystal clear" that Assad's government was responsible.
Vice President Joe Biden went even further, bluntly telling an American Legion audience in Houston: "Chemical weapons have been used."
Vice President Joe Biden addresses the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the president's response in a speech to the American Legion.
"No one doubts that innocent men, women and children have been the victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and there's no doubt who's responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime," Biden said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney repeated Tuesday that the White House isn't considering the deliberate overthrow of Assad.
"The options that we are considering are not about regime change," said during a daily briefing with reporters. "They are about responding to the clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons."
But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an influential voice on military matters, pressed the administration to go further, calling for the U.S. and its allies to provide weapons to "the resistance on the ground."
"The important part of this whole situation is, is this just going to be just a retaliatory strike that has no lasting impact or something that changes the momentum on the ground in Syria?" McCain told reporters in Mesa, Ariz., after an event on immigration reform.
Three days of airstrikes planned
Senior officials told NBC News that Defense Department planning had advanced to the point that three days of strikes were anticipated, after which strategists could run an assessment and target what was missed in further rounds.
Many Americans asked about the slaughter in Syria are torn as to how the U.S. should get involved. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
U.S. missile strikes would almost certainly be launched from Navy destroyers or submarines in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. in recent days has moved destroyers closer to Syria, which sits on the sea's eastern edge, but that was mostly a symbolic move. U.S. Tomahawk missiles are so precise that they can hit not just buildings but also specific windows, and they could hit Syrian targets from far farther west in the Mediterranean.
Navy officials said four destroyers are lined up ready to strike: the USS Barry, the USS Mahan, the USS Ramage and the USS Gravely.
Tuesday, a fifth guided-missile destroyer, the USS Stout, also entered the Mediterranean, through the Straights of Gibraltar, but officials said it wouldn't take part in any cruise missile attack.
"The four destroyers now in place have more than enough cruise missiles," one official said.
Pressure for a response builds
Underscoring the urgency facing world leaders, British Prime Minister David Cameron called Parliament back from vacation and said it would vote on action Thursday, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. military was "ready to go."
Monday, using forceful language, Secretary of State John Kerry said Syrian chemical attacks were a "moral obscenity" and accused the Assad regime not just of having used chemical agents but also of having covered up the evidence.
On Tuesday, the U.N. said its investigating team in Syria would delay its next outing by a day, to Wednesday. The team came under fire from unidentified snipers Monday on its way to check out the site of a suspected chemical attack near Damascus, the capital.
Having fled the violence within Syria, nearly 2 million refugees, a million of them children, are living in refugee camps in Jordan. NBC News' Ann Curry reports.
In Cairo, the Arab League said it held Assad responsible for the suspected attack. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries condemned the use of unconventional weapons.
Support from the Arab League, even if limited, would provide crucial diplomatic cover for a Western strike on Syria. Action through the U.N. is unlikely because Russia, which supports the Assad regime, has a veto in the Security Council.
Some U.S. allies, notably Britain, have signaled that a limited strike could take place without Security Council approval. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it would be a "very grave violation of international law," and China said through its government-run news service that the U.S. must refrain from "hasty armed intervention."
In Syria, the top general in the Free Syria Army, the umbrella group comprising rebel factions, told NBC News' Richard Engel that airstrikes were necessary to stop Assad from launching even broader chemical attacks.
"If there is no action, we are afraid that in the coming days, not coming weeks, Bashar will use chemical weapons and chemical materials against very wide areas and, I'm afraid, to kill maybe 20,000 or 30,000 more people," he said.
Eric Baculinao, Baruch Ben-Chorin, Catherine Chomiak, Carrie Dann, Alastair Jamieson, Stacey Klein, Andrea Mitchell, Ron Simeone and Winstone Wilde of NBC News; Reuters; and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.
On August 27, 2013 by Conspiracy Realism in    No comments
Obama: All talk, no action on Syria?




President Barack Obama, sure to fall short of getting explicit U.N. approval for any military strikes against Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s forces and facing potential divisions inside NATO, has instead been assembling allies and partners in a coalition of the willing that recalls the Iraq War.
And where then-President George W. Bush at least got Congress to authorize him to use force against Saddam Hussein, Obama shows no sign of asking lawmakers to do so, preferring instead to engage in “consultations” with key players.
For a president who defined his 2008 run for the White House with his forceful denunciation of the way Bush led the country into the Iraq war, and then managed the conflict, it’s an unusual turn of events, to say the least.
To be sure, there are major differences: While Russia opposed both interventions, France is this time in Washington’s corner. No major allies have spoken out against the principle of a forceful response to Assad's alleged slaughter of civilians last week with chemical weapons, though NATO ally Germany has signaled that it opposes military action. Obama has pointedly ruled out putting boots on the ground — and repeatedly cited the Iraq War as a cautionary tale of how interventions can spiral out of control.
With explicit U.N. approval impossible to secure absent a 180-degree turn by Russia, the current president is looking for justification in international law, while Bush found it in past U.N. Security Council resolutions.
And the intelligence community appears to be sadder and wiser regarding the need to provide rock-ribbed proof to back up the president’s allegations than it was when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell made his dramatic presentation to the United Nations warning of the threat of Saddam’s (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction.
The White House is sure to dismiss the comparisons as an exercise in prejudgment, given that Obama has not formally announced his response to the alleged massacre outside Damascus.
But it bears keeping in mind given that Americans probably won’t be able to weigh in formally on Obama’s escalation in Syria until after it happens.
That’s not by any stretch a surprise — the D-Day landings weren’t the result of a national referendum, after all. But at least Congress had declared war. This time, with polls showing weak support for intervention in Syria, lawmakers show no inclination to launch a formal debate on whether to use force against Assad.
The news on Tuesday brought the prospect of war with Syria almost to the point of inescapability. CNN reported that a formal U.S. intelligence assessment offering technical evidence that Syria massacred rebels with chemical weapons last week could come as early as today. NBC reported that strikes at Syrian targets could begin Thursday and might last “three days.” The Washington Post reported that military action probably would last no more than two days and primarily rely on missile strikes or long-range bombers. Reuters reported that Western powers had told opposition forces to expect a strike against Bashar Assad’s forces “as early as in the next few days.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the American military was “ready to go” if ordered on the attack.




On Monday the White House stonewalled some of the most important questions about a possible military campaign on the grounds that Obama has not yet made a decision.

Here is a rundown of the questions and White House responses:
What would be a proportional response to Syria’s alleged slaughter of civilians last week?
“I’m not going to speculate about potential responses,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. “I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals about potential responses or what might occur after any response or any decision is made about a response.”
Could the president act without an explicit authorization from Congress? What about the United Nations? (Note here that Republican House Speaker John Boehner has called for only “consultation” with Congress).
Carney’s response: The president is talking with Congress and allies. Is that a substitute for U.N. approval? “You’re getting into a hypothetical about a decision that hasn’t been made.”
When the question was asked again, the spokesman replied: “I don't want to speculate about what Congress might do when we haven’t even reached a decision.”


Obama did not try to secure congressional authorization for the intervention in Libya. There’s no reason to think he will do so now.
Could the president’s response stop short of military strikes? Is he considering other options?
“I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals about decisions that haven’t been made,” Carney said.
When could Obama decide whether to act?
“I'm not going to speculate about the timing of a response or a decision,” Carney said. (At this point, I should note that this isn’t about picking on Carney. Spokespeople — especially at the White House, especially on military or intelligence matters — are basically required to deploy these kinds of dodges. There are few worse sins in the White House than saying something seen as limiting the president's range of options when he has not done so).
What’s the legal basis for a military strike? (The president, a constitutional law professor, said last week that he meant to have a basis in international law.)
“I'm not going to speculate about a decision that hasn’t been made,” Carney replied.
Would military action be confined to retaliation for the alleged chemical weapons attack? Or would it aim to turn the tide of the 2½ year civil war in Syria?
This is one of the most important questions, and Carney provided an answer after initially refusing to “speculate” what course of action Obama would choose.
“The answer broadly is that we are considering responses to this transgression, to this violation of an international norm. We are continuing our support for the opposition in its fight against Assad. But we also have made clear for a long time now that there is not a military solution to that conflict. There has to be a political solution — that ultimately Assad has to step aside to allow for a better future for the Syrian people,” he said.

Obama himself has repeatedly, forcefully, and publicly warned against action that could pull the United States into a escalatory spiral in Syria.
What’s the point of having the U.N. inspectors in Syria render a judgment about whether chemical weapons were used if Obama has already decided they were, and by the Assad regime?
“At this point, we do not have confidence that the U.N. can conduct a credible inquiry into what happened,” Carney said. “And we are concerned that the Syrian government's continued obstruction and delay of the inquiry is designed to create more time and space for their continued actions.”
Translation: If the inspectors find evidence of chemical weapons, we will be vindicated. If they don’t find evidence of chemical weapons, it’s irrelevant.
Obama aides had made this argument last week, predicting that Assad’s forces would shell the affected areas to corrupt any evidence of chemical weapons.
Secretary of State John Kerry argued that Assad had violated international norms of behavior by using chemical weapons. Is that the legal underpinning of potential military action?
“I’m not going to lay out a legal case here because we are evaluating potential responses,” Carney said.
Why is the United States responsible for enforcing this norm?
“I think this is concluding that the United States alone is appalled by the use of chemical weapons in violation of international norms here, and that is not the case,” Carney said. “And I think leaders from other nations have made clear that they share our views about what happened in Syria on this particular occasion.”
Obama last week said that the United States is the “indispensable nation” on such issues, a reflection that it alone has the clout to act.

Monday, August 26, 2013

On August 26, 2013 by Conspiracy Realism in    No comments

 

Secretary of State John Kerry left no doubt Monday that the United States believes Syria’s Bashar Assad used chemical weapons to slaughter civilians last week and vowed that the United States will respond to that “moral obscenity.”



“Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass,” he said, in a barb likely meant for Syria and its patron Russia. “What is before us today is real and it is compelling.”
Kerry, speaking to reporters at the State Department, described the attack in very personal terms, describing how he had watched the “gut-wrenching” videos of the dead and dying via social media. But he gave no details about when a decision on whether to use force in response to last week’s massacre might come — or whether it would.
The secretary of state said the United States government and its allies were reviewing non-public information about the alleged attack and promised “we will provide that information in the days ahead.”
“Make no mistake, President (Barack) Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” Kerry warned. “Nothing today is more serious and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.”
The top U.S. diplomat offered no new public evidence to back up U.S. charges that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in an attack just outside Damascus that anti-Assad fighters claim might have killed more than 1,300.
Instead, he declared that shocking social media videos shared by the opposition had essentially made the world witness to the assault.
After a round of telephone diplomacy on Sunday, Kerry said, “I went back and I watched videos — videos that anybody can watch on social media — I watched them one more gut-wrenching time.”
“As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head, of a man who held up his dead child, wailing, while chaos swirled around,” he said.
“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity,” he underlined.
On August 26, 2013 by Conspiracy Realism in    No comments

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned the United States Monday not to take military action against his country in the wake of accusations that his government has used chemical weapons against rebel forces.
In comments published Monday in the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Assad was quoted as saying "Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day." Assad added that the accusation of chemical weapons use were "against elementary logic," explaining that Syrian government forces were near where the alleged attack took place.
Reuters reported later Monday that a convoy of United Nations weapons inspectors had left a Damascus hotel and were en route to the site in the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital.
Also Monday, Russia's foreign ministry, an ally of Assad's, released a statement saying that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had urged restraint to US Secretary of State John Kerry when the two spoke by phone Sunday.
"[Lavrov] stressed that the official announcements from Washington in recent days about the readiness of U.S. armed forces to 'intervene' in the Syrian conflict have been received in Moscow with deep concern," the statement read in part, according to Reuters.
A senior State Department official told Fox News that Kerry had told Lavrov during their conversation that the United States had "very little doubt that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians." The official added that Kerry had also spoken to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and had relayed the same message to them.
Hague told BBC Radio Monday that it would be possible for Western allies to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria without the unanimous backing of the United Nations Security Council. Such a situation would almost certainly arise due to Russia's power to veto any proposed resolution in the council authorizing the use of force against the Syrian government.
"Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council?" Hague asked, according to Reuters. "I would argue yes it is otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes, and I don't think that's an acceptable
situation.''

Reuters reported that Hague's Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu concurred, telling a Turkish newspaper that Turkey would join any international coalition that forms against the Assad government, with or without UN backing.
However, Fabius told Europe 1 radio Monday that no final decision had been made, but all options remained available.
"There has to be a proportional reaction ... and that will be decided in the coming days," Fabius said, according to Reuters. "All options are envisaged. The only one that is not on the table is to not do anything."
On Sunday, members of Congress cautioned President Obama about a full-scale intervention.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told "Fox News Sunday" that he thinks the president will respond soon with military action.
However, he suggested waiting until Congress returns next week to seek its authorization and that the United States respond “in a surgical way.”
“I hope the president will … do something in a very surgical and proportional way, something that gets their attention,” he said. “At the same time, I hope it's the kind of action that doesn't move us away from the policy we have right now where we want to see the Syrian opposition group taking the lead on the ground.”
Assad's forces are accused of using a chemical weapon on civilians Wednesday near Damascus, killing at least 100 people.
A senior administration official says the White House thinks Assad and his forces originally denied United Nations investigators immediate access to the site of the reported attack to give the evidence time to degrade. In addition, the White House thinks any inspection now will be too late, the official said.
Corker was joined on the show by New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who called the alleged civilian attacks last week “horrific" and urged the U.S. to respond with its NATO allies.
“But we have to move, and we have to move now,” Engel said.
Engel and Corker's comments come after almost a year of lawmakers pressing Obama to make good on his statement about Syria “crossing a red line” by using chemical weapons.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested Friday that the Pentagon might move naval forces closer to Syria in preparation for a possible decision by Obama to order military strikes.
However, U.S. defense officials have said the Navy has already sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, with lawmakers saying the best strategy now might by using Cruise missiles fired from off shore.
Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, a member of the chamber’s Armed Services Committee, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” the United States cannot let itself get into a situation in Syria “where this becomes a springboard for a general military option."
"We have to verify (the chemical attack) was directed by the Assad regime because that will allow us to build an international coalition, which is absolutely necessary to take any more steps in Syria,” he added.
Other Syrian allies on Sunday also reportedly warned the United States about taking military action. Massoud Jazayeri, Iran’s deputy chief of staff for armed forces, warned the U.S. about crossing a "red line" on Syria, saying such action would have "severe consequences," according to Reuters.
The reports of thousands killed or stricken by chemical weapons last week is the latest allegation about such tactics in the Middle East country’s roughly 2-year-long civil war.
The White House has been reluctant to take direct military actions, instead supplying rebel forces with non-lethal aid, weighing military options and trying to garner international support.
The senior administration official said Sunday that the U.S. intelligence community made the assessment about likely chemical use based on "the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured and witness accounts."
The administration statement follows a meeting Saturday between President Obama and his National Security Council that concluded with the White House saying the administration was still “gathering facts.”
The official spoke Sunday on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.
Syrian state media accused rebels of using chemical arms against government troops in clashes Saturday near Damascus, while Doctors Without Borders said it has tallied 355 deaths from the purported chemical weapons attack on Wednesday.
The international aid group said three hospitals it supports in the eastern Damascus region reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over less than three hours on Wednesday morning when the attack in the eastern Ghouta area took place. Of those, 355 died.
U.S. confirmation took more than four months after rebels similarly reported chemical attacks in February, though in this instance a U.N. chemical weapons team is already on the ground in Syria. Assad's government, then as now, has denied the claims as baseless.
Fox News' James Rosen, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.