‘We now know Brits cannot be counted on’: White House snub as US and France prepare to strike Syria as early as TOMORROW
By ANTHONY BOND
PUBLISHED: 09:18 GMT, 31 August 2013 | UPDATED: 19:44 GMT, 31 August 2013
U.S missile strikes against Syria could start tomorrow after U.N. weapons inspectors left the war-torn country earlier than expected.
The team of chemical weapons inspectors left their Damascus hotel early today fueling speculation of an imminent attack.
It came as the White House delivered an astonishing snub to Britain following Thursday’s shock Commons defeat, with sources saying David Cameron had ‘bungled’ securing British support for military action and that Britain ‘cannot be counted on’.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last night paved the way for war by saying the American intelligence community had ‘high confidence’ that the regime launched a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus last week
But at a press conference today U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky described suggestions the team’s departure opened the window for U.S. military action as ‘grotesque’.
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Strike: The team of chemical weapons inspectors left their Damascus hotel early today fueling speculation of an imminent attack
Leaving: U.N. experts arrive at the entrance of the private jet terminal at Beirut international airport, Lebanon, following their departure from Syria
Mr Nesirky said the team had left Syria for the Netherlands this morning ‘so that they could take the samples to the laboratories where they will be analysed’.
He said other evidence including interviews with doctors and survivors had also been collated.
The secretary general is due to be briefed further by the head of the UN chemical weapons team tomorrow but Mr Nesirky gave no timetable for when the findings would be released.
He said the mandate for the mission was to find out whether chemical weapons had been used and not who was responsible for any attack.
He said: ‘The aim of the game for the mandate is very clear and that is to ascertain whether chemical weapons were used and not by whom and that remains the mandate.’
He also rejected suggestions the the inspectors leaving the country was opening the door for US air strikes.
Departure: A Lebanese special forces policeman escorts the U.N. vehicles at Beirut international airport
Protest: Anti-Syrian regime protesters carry a banner during a demonstration at Kafr Nabil in northern Syria
He said: ‘I have seen all kinds of reporting suggesting that the departure of the chemical weapons team somehow opens a window for military action of some kind.
SYRIA EXPECTING ATTACK ‘AT ANY MOMENT’
Syria is expecting ‘an attack at any moment’, a security official has said.
As the UN chemical weapons inspectors left the country and arrived in the Netherlands to begin investigating evidence, a Syrian official has said the regime is ‘ready to retilitate’.
The official told AFP: ‘We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate at any moment.’
‘Frankly, that’s grotesque, and it’s also an affront to the more than 1,000 staff, U.N. staff, who are on the ground in Syria delivering humanitarian aid and who will continue to deliver critical aid.’
Nesirky repeated that the inspectors would return later to investigate several other alleged poison gas attacks.
He said the UN mission was ‘uniquely capable of establishing in an impartial and credible manner the facts of any use of chemical weapons based directly on evidence collected on the ground’.
Britain has been left sidelined in any U.S military action against Syria following the humiliating Commons defeat – placing strain on the ‘special relationship’ with the U.S.
Mr Kerry pointedly made no mention of Britain during his speech and instead lavished praise on its ‘oldest ally’ France – which looks likely to join the U.S in a missile strike.
He paid tribute to the French for standing ready to join the U.S in confronting the ‘thug and murderer’ President Bashar Assad. He also praised Australia and even Turkey for their support.
Worried: A family leave Syria today over fears the U.S could launch a missile strike
Leaving: Syrian families undergo security checks as they cross into Lebanon from Syria today
In a passionate speech in Washington, he urged the world to act as he warned ‘history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’.
President Barack Obama yesterday said he is weighing ‘limited and narrow’ action as the administration put the chemical weapons death toll at 1,429 people – far more than previous estimates – including more than 400 children.
Downing Street insisted the U.S special relationship was still intact following a telephone call between the Prime Minister and Mr Obama.
However, White House sources told The Times that David Cameron had ‘bungled’ securing British support for military action.
Another source with knowledge of how the White House reacted to Thursday’s shock Commons defeat, said: ‘It came as a real shock to them. They now know the Brits, because of their political system, cannot be counted on.’
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, expressed his frustration. He said: ‘I’m disappointed , because we have a very close working relationship with the U.S.
‘It is a difficult time for our Armed Forces – having prepared to go into this action – to then be stood down and have to watch while the U.S acts alone or perhaps acts with France.’
Decision time: President Barack Obama meets with his national security staff to discuss the situation in Syria, in the Situation Room of the White House
Snub: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lavished praise on France last night, calling it America’s ¿oldest ally¿ as the two countries prepare for a missile strike against Syria
Halfway around the world, U.S. warships were in place in the Mediterranean Sea. They carried cruise missiles, long a first-line weapon of choice for presidents because they can find a target hundreds of miles distant without need of air cover or troops on the ground.
Seeking to reassure Americans weary after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama insisted there would be no ‘boots on the ground.’
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said today that it would be ‘utter nonsense’ for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it was winning the war, and urged U.S. President Barack Obama not to attack Syrian forces.
Strain: Prime Minister David Cameron is pictured being driven away from the rear of Number 10 Downing Street last night . He has been left humiliated following Thursday’s shock Commons defeat
Hard work: Labour leader Ed Miliband works in his office at Westminster yesterday after inflicting Thursday’s humiliating Commons defeat for David Cameron
FRENCH PUBLIC OPPOSED TO SYRIA INTERVENTION, REVEALS POLL
Determined: French President Francois Hollande has insisted he is ready to launch strikes on President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime
The French people are overwhelmingly opposed to armed intervention in Syria, a new poll reveals today.
It follows President Francois Hollande’s insistence that he is ready to launch strikes on President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons.
As supreme commander of France’s armed forces, Mr Hollande is empowered to go to war without parliamentary approval.
But he will be extremely concerned by the results of today’s BVA poll published in Le Parisien, the French capital’s daily newspaper.
It shows that 64 per cent of the country are ‘hostile’ to taking part in military intervention in Syria.
Major concerns expressed are that such action will turn the country against West and increase the barbarity of Syria’s civil war, which has already claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Of those questioned, 37 per cent believe military action will help turn Syria from a secular republic to an Islamist state.
Thirty five per cent think it will inflame the region, and 22 per cent think it will not change the lives of ordinary Syrians.
Others (17 per cent) express concern at the lack of clear evidence that Bashar has used chemical weapons, and 18 per cent think there will be retaliation against French interests.
Despite such statistics, BVA analyst Celine Bracq said the mood would change if the French do join the USA in military action.
‘Be careful,’ she said. ‘The French are not for getting into a war, but they will largely get behind the head of state – by patriotic reflex – as soon as the operation is triggered.’
Mr Hollande has said that international action against Syria will ‘strike a body blow’ to Assad’s regime, and could start as early as Wednesday.
He said he was determined to act, despite Britain’s Parliament last week rejecting calls for an attack.
In an interview with this weekend’s Le Monde, Mr Hollande said: ‘Each country retains the sovereign right to participate or not in an operation. That applies to Britain as well as France.’
Putin said: ‘That is why I am convinced that it (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States,"
Mr Cameron- who spoke to the U.S. President following Thursday’s defeat – acknowledged that ‘politics is difficult’ .
But he said he would not have to apologise to Mr Obama for being unable to commit UK military units to any international alliance.
Setting out the approach he would now take to Syria, the Prime Minister said: ‘I think it’s important we have a robust response to the use of chemical weapons and there are a series of things we will continue to do.
Destruction: Residents inspect buildings damaged by what activists said were warplanes belonging to forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar Al-Assad in Iskat, near the Syrian-Turkish border
Lone supporter: President Francois Hollande of France is the only country supporting the United States as they contemplate armed action against Bashar Assad’s regime over a suspected chemical weapons attack on his own people.
‘We will continue to take a case to the United Nations, we will continue to work in all the organisations we are members of – whether the EU, or Nato, or the G8 or the G20 – to condemn what’s happened in Syria.
‘It’s important we uphold the international taboo on the use of chemical weapons.
‘But one thing that was proposed, the potential – only after another vote – involvement of the British military in any action, that won’t be happening.
‘That won’t be happening because the British Parliament, reflecting the great scepticism of the British people about any involvement in the Middle East, and I understand that, that part of it won’t be going ahead.’
Following the Prime Minister’s conversation with the U.S. President, a Number 10 spokesman said: ‘The PM explained that he wanted to build a consensual approach in Britain for our response and that the Government had accepted the clear view of the House against British military action.
‘President Obama said he fully respected the PM’s approach and that he had not yet taken a decision on the US response.
‘The president stressed his appreciation of his strong friendship with the Prime Minister and of the strength, durability and depth of the special relationship between our two countries.
‘They agreed that their co-operation on international issues would continue in the future and both reiterated their determination to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict by bringing all sides together.’
Anti-war protesters have hailed Parliament’s vote against British intervention in Syria as a ‘victory’ as they gathered in Trafalgar Square today to show their opposition to military strikes.
Around a thousand campaigners carried banners with slogans such as No Attack on Syria and Hands Off Syria and Syrian flags.
Speakers addressed the crowd from below Nelson’s Column as tourists visiting central London looked on.
‘Never let them say demonstrations don’t work – our demonstration has worked,’ Lindsey German, convener of the Stop The War coalition, said to the cheers of protesters.
Stop the War coalition said that 5,000 people had turned out on a sunny and pleasant late summer day to back the protest.
The White House released this map detailing its understanding of the areas where chemical weapons were used
U.S. INTELLIGENCE ON THE SOURCE OF SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS ATTACK
U.S. intelligence community has ‘high confidence,’ short of actual confirmation, that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack on August 21
Members of the Syrian regime were preparing chemical weapons in the three days prior to the August 21 attack and protected themselves using gas masks
At least 1,429 Syrians were killed in the attacks, including 426 children
The weapons were launched from government-controlled areas into opposition-held or contested territory
The Syrian government has carried out smaller-scale chemical weapons attacks multiple times over the last year
U.S. intelligence officials ‘intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence’
On the afternoon of August 21, intelligence officials learned that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations
Women with Syrian flags painted on their faces chanted ‘USA shame on you’.
There were also several trade union and Communist flags with the hammer and sickle on display.
Veteran left-winger and former Labour MP Tony Benn addressed the crowd and expressed his hope that ‘the voice of peace should become the voice of Britain’.
After leaving Syria, the international contingent of weapons inspectors are heading to laboratories in Europe with the samples they have collected.
Video said to be taken at the scene shows victims writhing in pain, twitching and exhibiting other symptoms associated with exposure to nerve agents.
The videos distributed by activists to support their claims of a chemical attack were consistent with Associated Press reporting of shelling in the suburbs of Damascus at the time, though it was not known if the victims had died from a poisonous gas attack.
The Syrian government said administration claims were ‘flagrant lies’ akin to faulty Bush administration assertions before the Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
A Foreign Ministry statement read on state TV said that ‘under the pretext of protecting the Syrian people, they are making a case for an aggression that will kill hundreds of innocent Syrian civilians.’
Residents of Damascus stocked up on food and other necessities in anticipation of strikes, with no evident sign of panic.
One man, 42-year-old Talal Dowayih, said: ‘I am not afraid from the Western threats to Syria; they created the chemical issue as a pretext for intervention, and they are trying to hit Syria for the sake of Israel.’
President Obama said Friday that he is considering ‘limited, narrow’ military action against Syria0
Kerry: Syria’s Assad is a thug and murderer
Obama met with his national security aides at the White House and then with diplomats from Baltic countries, saying he has not yet made a final decision on a response to the attack.
Mr Kerry said yesterday that the credibility and security of the U.S. and its allies are at stake.
‘Some cite the risk of doing things,’ he said. But we need to ask, “What is the risk of doing nothing?”’
The U.S. intelligence report said that about 3,600 patients ‘displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure’ were seen at Damascus-area hospitals after the attack.
To that, Kerry added that ‘a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact and actually was afraid they would be discovered.’ He added for emphasis: ‘We know this.’
An estimated 100,000 civilians have been killed in more than two years, many of them from attacks by the Syrian government on its own citizens.
Obama has long been wary of U.S. military involvement in the struggle, as he has been with turbulent events elsewhere during the so-called Arab Spring. In this case, reluctance stems in part from recognition that while Assad has ties to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the rebels seeking to topple him have connections with al-Qaida terrorist groups.
Still, Obama declared more than a year ago that the use of chemical weapons would amount to a ‘red line’ that Assad should not cross.
And Obama approved the shipment of small weapons and ammunition to the Syrian rebels after an earlier reported chemical weapons attack, although there is little sign that the equipment has arrived.
With memories of the long Iraq war still fresh, the political crosscurrents have been intense both domestically and overseas.
Kerry: There will be no U.S. boots on the ground in Syria
Dozens of lawmakers, most of them Republican, have signed a letter saying Obama should not take military action without congressional approval, and top leaders of both political parties are urging the president to consult more closely with Congress before giving an order to launch hostilities.
Despite the urgings, there has been little or no discussion about calling Congress back into session to debate the issue.
Lawmakers have been on a summer break for nearly a month, and are not due to return to the Capitol until Sept. 9.
Obama has not sought a vote of congressional approval for any military action. Neither Republican nor Democratic congressional leaders have challenged his authority to act or sought to have lawmakers called into session before he does.
Hundreds died in the alleged chemical attacks on Wednesday, including many women and children
Secretary of State John Kerry said images like these contributed to the U.S. assessment that chemical weapons were used in Syria
Senior White House, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence officials met for an hour and half Friday with more than a dozen senators who serve on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. He described the discussion as ‘open and constructive.’
The White House will brief Republican senators in a conference call today at the request of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a spokesman for the senator, Don Stewart, said.
Obama’s efforts to put together an international coalition to support military action have been more down than up.
Hollande has endorsed punitive strikes, and told the newspaper Le Monde that the ‘chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished.’
American attempts to secure backing at the United Nations have been blocked by Russia, long an ally of Syria.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged a delay in any military action until the inspectors can present their findings to U.N. member states and the Security Council.
‘President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests,’ he said. ‘Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility.’
Obama says no decision on Syria yet
Military intervention: A US Air Force plane lands at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey yesterday. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the inspection team in Syria is expected to complete its work by today
He said the U.S. should also feel confident that it has the backing of a number of other nations, including Turkey, Australia, the Arab League and what he called America’s ‘oldest ally,’ France.
Half of Americans say they oppose taking military action against Syria and nearly 80 percent believe Obama should seek congressional approval before using any force, according to a new NBC poll.
The administration supplemented Kerry’s remarks Friday with the release of the intelligence report.
‘It’s findings are as clear as they are compelling,’ Kerry said.
The report concludes with ‘high confidence,’ short of actual confirmation, that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack.
‘Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation,’ the report says.
‘We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence,’ the report continues. ‘On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations.’
British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to secure Parliament’s backing for military intervention in Syria
The findings also claim that Assad is the ‘ultimate decision maker’ for Syria’s chemical weapons program and that his regime has used the weapons on a smaller scale against citizens several times in the past year.
‘This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin,’ the report says. ‘We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.’ Sarin is a type of nerve gas.
The report further reveals evidence that the regime had been preparing chemical weapons in the three days prior to the attacks and protected themselves using gas masks.
‘Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21, near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin,’ the report says.
The report also cited evidence that the attacks were launched from regime-controlled areas into opposition territory or contested areas.
Calling Assad a ‘thug’ and a ‘murderer,’ John Kerry declared, ‘History would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator¿s use of chemical weapons.’
Assad propaganda on Syrian TV says ‘U.S. evidence is lies’
Several senior officials related before the release of the report that the intelligence was ‘not a slam dunk’ in terms of tying Assad’s regime to the use of chemical weapons.
The term ‘slam dunk’ is a reference to the then-CIA Director George Tenet’s assurance in 2002 that assessments showing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was a ‘slam dunk.’
Kerry assured on Friday that the U.S. will not repeat the mistakes of the Iraq war.
‘We are more than mindful of the Iraq experience,’ Kerry said. ‘We will not repeat that moment.’
He later added: ‘Whatever decision [Obama] makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.’
The administration briefed members of Congress on a conference call Thursday evening to explain its conclusion that Bashar Assad’s government was guilty of carrying out a suspected chemical attack on August 21.
Following the call, House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, sided with Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in urging the administration to engage with the full Congress on the matter.
She also said that the administration must provide ‘additional transparency into the decision-making process.’
Experts: U.S. Case that Syrian Government Responsible for Chemical Weapons Is Weak
Intelligence Experts Around the Globe Are Sounding the Alarm that the Justification for Intervention Is Far from Established
Huffington Post reports:
Intelligence experts around the globe are sounding the alarm that the justification for intervention is far from established.
One of the world’s leading experts on chemical weapons, Jean Pascal Zanders, on Friday told The Huffington Post UK that he has significant doubts about the identity of the chemical agent widely blamed for the deaths in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
“We don’t know what the agent is,” said Zanders, who until recently served as senior research fellow at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, an EU agency that scrutinizes defense and security issues. “Everyone is saying sarin. There is something clearly to do with a neurotoxicant [such as sarin], but not everything is pointing in that direction.”
The agent used is a crucial piece of information, Zanders said, because the family of neurotoxicants that includes military weapons such as nerve agents also encompasses industrial products like those used to control rodents. Until the actual agent can be identified, any link to the Assad regime is tenuous, Zanders said.
“If say, for example, a neurotoxicant was taken from a factory and used at [Ghouta], then the number of actors who might be responsible for that then increases,” he said
Zanders’ caution was merely the latest bit of skepticism to emerge from the ranks of experienced experts now challenging the adequacy of the case for a strike in Syria.
On Thursday, Lawrence Wilkerson, who reviewed the intelligence presented by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell as justification for the war in Iraq a decade ago, told HuffPost that the preparations for a Syria strike seem devoid of authority.
Wilkerson [who largely drafted Powell’s speech] likened the current debate to a repeat of the days he spent preparing for Powell’s since-debunked testimony, “with people telling me [former Iraq President] Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction with absolutely certainty.”
He added: “It seems like the same thing again.”
That pronouncement followed a striking caution from Hans Blix, who was chief United Nations arms inspector for Iraq in the run-up to the war. In an interview with Nathan Gardels, Blix said that while “indications are certainly in the direction of the use of chemical weapons” in Syria, those now contemplating military action should wait for U.N. inspectors now on the ground to complete their work.
“As we’ve seen before, the political dynamics are running ahead of due process,” Blix said, adding that the dynamic was reminiscent of the way the Bush administration launched the war in Iraq.
“I do not go along with the statement by the U.S. that ‘it is too late’ for Syria now to cooperate. That is a poor excuse for taking military action.”
Most pointedly, Blix warned that missiles aimed at eradicating Assad’s chemical weapons capacities could exacerbate harm.
“Attacking stockpiles with cruise missiles, as I understand it, has the disadvantage that is might spread chemical weapons in the vicinity of any attack,” Blix said.
Zanders, the former EU chemical weapons expert, went even further, arguing thatoutsiders cannot conclude with confidence the extent or geographic location of the chemical weapons attack widely being blamed on the Assad regime.
He singled out the images of victims convulsing in agony that have circulated widely on the Web, including on YouTube.
“You do not know where they were taken,” he said. “You do not know when they were taken or even by whom they were taken. Or, whether they [are from] the same incident or from different incidents.”
Zanders added: “It doesn’t tell me who would be responsible for it. It doesn’t tell me where the films were taken. It just tells me that something has happened, somewhere, at some point.”
Indeed, many experts on chemical weapons have expressed doubt that government-made chemicals were used. And – in a replay of the run up to the Iraq war – the U.S. has done everything it can toprevent U.N. weapons inspectors from doing their job.
At least one former chemical weapons inspector who was involved in gathering intelligence in Iraq 10 years ago saw more similarities to 2003 than differences.
The inspector, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said that reading the unclassified U.S. intelligence report on Friday gave him a sense of deja vu. He said the lack of information about a specific chemical agent could indicate that the administration lacks forensic evidence.
“A lot of this seems circumstantial,” he said. “This document is written by the choir for the choir to preach to the choir.”
And U.S. and British intelligence now that admit they don’t know whether it was the rebels or the Syrian government who carried out the attack.
French Oppose War Against Syria
But Government Ignores Them
The French people – like the Americans – oppose war against Syria.
Agence France-Presse and the Local reported yesterday:
On the same day France dispatched a ship towards Syria a survey conducted by IFOP for Le Figaro newspaper shows the French hold a mainly negative view towards a possible military intervention in Syria by the country’s armed forces.
The poll revealed that 59% of the public are against French involvement.
The Windsor Start notes:
A new poll suggests nearly three in five French people would oppose France joining any military action in Syria.
Indeed, most people worldwide are opposed to a strike on Syria:
A new poll by The Sun shows that Brits oppose a missile strike against Syria by a factor of 2-to-1.
A new poll in Germany shows that 69% of the German people were against a military strike on Syria.
A Pew poll from May – after the previous chemical weapon attack – found:
Eight-in-ten Germans (82%) opposed such assistance, as did more than two-thirds of the French (69%) and a majority of the British (57%). Even the Turks (65%), who share a border with Syria and now house 300,000 refugees from the civil war, oppose military aid to the rebels.
Publics in the Middle East are even less supportive of the West getting involved. In five of the six countries that were surveyed in March in the region – Lebanon (80%), Turkey (68%), Tunisia (60%), Egypt (59%) and the Palestinian territories (63%) – publics opposed Americans or Europeans supplying the Syrian rebels with weapons.
Putin: US should present Syria evidence to Security Council
Published time: August 31, 2013 09:55
Edited time: August 31, 2013 15:21
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)
Download video (31.19 MB)
Video – Putin: US should present Syria evidence to Security Council
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.
The Economic Collapse
August 31, 2013
Someone wants to get the United States into a war with Syria very, very badly. Cui bono is an old Latin phrase that is still commonly used, and it roughly means “to whose benefit?” The key to figuring out who is really behind the push for war is to look at who will benefit from that war.
If a full-blown war erupts between the United States and Syria, it will not be good for the United States, it will not be good for Israel, it will not be good for Syria, it will not be good for Iran and it will not be good for Hezbollah. The party that stands to benefit the most is Saudi Arabia, and they won’t even be doing any of the fighting. They have been pouring billions of dollars into the conflict in Syria, but so far they have not been successful in their attempts to overthrow the Assad regime. Now the Saudis are trying to play their trump card – the U.S. military. If the Saudis are successful, they will get to pit the two greatest long-term strategic enemies of Sunni Islam against each other – the U.S. and Israel on one side and Shia Islam on the other. In such a scenario, the more damage that both sides do to each other the happier the Sunnis will be.
There would be other winners from a U.S. war with Syria as well. For example, it is well-known that Qatar wants to run a natural gas pipeline out of the Persian Gulf, through Syria and into Europe. That is why Qatar has also been pouring billions of dollars into the civil war in Syria.
So if it is really Saudi Arabia and Qatar that want to overthrow the Assad regime, why does the United States have to do the fighting?
Someone should ask Barack Obama why it is necessary for the U.S. military to do the dirty work of his Sunni Muslim friends.
Obama is promising that the upcoming attack will only be a “limited military strike” and that we will not be getting into a full-blown war with Syria.
The only way that will work is if Syria, Hezbollah and Iran all sit on their hands and do nothing to respond to the upcoming U.S. attack.
Could that happen?
Let’s hope so.
But if there is a response, and a U.S. naval vessel gets hit, or American blood is spilled, or rockets start raining down on Tel Aviv, the U.S. will then be engaged in a full-blown war.
That is about the last thing that we need right now.
The vast majority of Americans do not want to get embroiled in another war in the Middle East, and even a lot of top military officials are expressing “serious reservations” about attacking Syria according to the Washington Post…
The Obama administration’s plan to launch a military strike against Syria is being received with serious reservations by many in the U.S. military, which is coping with the scars of two lengthy wars and a rapidly contracting budget, according to current and former officers.
Having assumed for months that the United States was unlikely to intervene militarily in Syria, the Defense Department has been thrust onto a war footing that has made many in the armed services uneasy, according to interviews with more than a dozen military officers ranging from captains to a four-star general.
For the United States, there really is no good outcome in Syria.
If we attack and Assad stays in power, that is a bad outcome for the United States.
If we help overthrow the Assad regime, the rebels take control. But they would be even worse than Assad. They have pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda, and they are rabidly anti-American, rabidly anti-Israel and rabidly anti-western.
So why in the world should the United States get involved?
This war would not be good for Israel either. I have seen a number of supposedly pro-Israel websites out there getting very excited about the prospect of war with Syria, but that is a huge mistake.
Syria has already threatened to attack Israeli cities if the U.S. attacks Syria. If Syrian missiles start landing in the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel willrespond.
And if any of those missiles have unconventional warheads, Israel will respond by absolutely destroying Damascus.
And of course a missile exchange between Syria and Israel will almost certainly draw Hezbollah into the conflict. And right now Hezbollah has70,000 rockets aimed at Israel.
If Hezbollah starts launching those rockets, thousands upon thousands of innocent Jewish citizens will be killed.
So all of those “pro-Israel” websites out there that are getting excited about war with Syria should think twice. If you really are “pro-Israel”, you should not want this war. It would not be good for Israel.
If you want to stand with Israel, then stand for peace. This war would not achieve any positive outcomes for Israel. Even if Assad is overthrown, the rebel government that would replace him would be even more anti-Israel than Assad was.
War is hell. Ask anyone that has been in the middle of one. Why would anyone want to see American blood spilled, Israeli blood spilled or Syrian blood spilled?
If the Saudis want this war so badly, they should go and fight it. Everyone knows that the Saudis have been bankrolling the rebels. At this point, even CNN is openly admitting this…
It is an open secret that Saudi Arabia is using Jordan to smuggle weapons into Syria for the rebels. Jordan says it is doing all it can to prevent that and does not want to inflame the situation in Syria.
And Assad certainly knows who is behind the civil war in his country. The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Assad…
Of course it is well known that countries, such as Saudi Arabia, who hold the purse strings can shape and manipulate them to suit their own interests.
Ideologically, these countries mobilize them through direct or indirect means as extremist tools. If they declare that Muslims must pursue Jihad in Syria, thousands of fighters will respond. Financially, those who finance and arm such groups can instruct them to carry out acts of terrorism and spread anarchy. The influence over them is synergized when a country such as Saudi Arabia directs them through both the Wahhabi ideology and their financial means.
And shortly after the British Parliament voted against military intervention in Syria, Saudi Arabia raised their level of “defense readiness” from “five” to “two” in a clear sign that they fully expect a war to happen…
Saudi Arabia, a supporter of rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, has raised its level of military alertness in anticipation of a possible Western strike in Syria, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The United States has been calling for punitive action against Assad’s government for a suspected poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb on August 21 that killed hundreds of people.
Saudi Arabia’s defense readiness has been raised to “two” from “five”, a Saudi military source who declined to be named told Reuters. “One” is the highest level of alert.
And guess who has been supplying the rebels in Syria with chemical weapons?
According to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak, it has been the Saudis…
Syrian rebels in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.
“From numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families….many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the (deadly) gas attack,” writes Gavlak.
And this is a guy that isn’t just fresh out of journalism school. As Paul Joseph Watson noted, “Dale Gavlak’s credibility is very impressive. He has been a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press for two decades and has also worked for National Public Radio (NPR) and written articles for BBC News.”
The Voice of Russia has also been reporting on Gavlak’s bombshell findings…
The rebels noted it was a result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them.
“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
As Gavlak reports, Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels died in a weapons storage tunnel. The father stated the weapons were provided to rebel forces by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, describing them as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K’. “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”
“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.
Gavlak also refers to an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks stating that Prince Bandar threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with terror attacks at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if Russia doesn’t agree to change its stance on Syria.
“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” the article stated.
“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Saudi Prince allegedly told Vladimir Putin.
Yes, the Saudis were so desperate to get the Russians to stand down and allow an attack on Syria that they actually threatened them. Zero Hedge published some additional details on the meeting between Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Russian President Vladimir Putin…
Bandar told Putin, “There are many common values and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. … As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us. These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role or influence in Syria’s political future.”
It is good of the Saudis to admit they control a terrorist organization that “threatens the security” of the Sochi 2014 Olympic games, and that house of Saud uses “in the face of the Syrian regime.” Perhaps the next time there is a bombing in Boston by some Chechen-related terrorists, someone can inquire Saudi Arabia what, if anything, they knew about that.
But the piece de resistance is what happened at the end of the dialogue between the two leaders. It was, in not so many words, a threat by Saudi Arabia aimed squarely at Russia:
As soon as Putin finished his speech, Prince Bandar warned that in light of the course of the talks, things were likely to intensify, especially in the Syrian arena, although he appreciated the Russians’ understanding of Saudi Arabia’s position on Egypt and their readiness to support the Egyptian army despite their fears for Egypt’s future.
The head of the Saudi intelligence services said that the dispute over the approach to the Syrian issue leads to the conclusion that “there is no escape from the military option, because it is the only currently available choice given that the political settlement ended in stalemate. We believe that the Geneva II Conference will be very difficult in light of this raging situation.”
At the end of the meeting, the Russian and Saudi sides agreed to continue talks, provided that the current meeting remained under wraps. This was before one of the two sides leaked it via the Russian press.
Are you starting to get the picture?
The Saudis are absolutely determined to make this war happen, and they expect us to do the fighting.
And Barack Obama plans to go ahead and attack Syria without the support of the American people or the approval of Congress.
According to a new NBC News poll that was just released, nearly 80 percent of all Americans want Congress to approve a strike on Syria before it happens.
And according to Politico, more than 150 members of Congress have already signed letters demanding that Obama get approval from them before attacking Syria…
Already Thursday, more than 150 members of Congress have signaled their opposition to airstrikes on Syria without a congressional vote. House members circulated two separate letters circulated that were sent to the White House demanding a congressional role before military action takes place. One, authored by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), has more than 150 signatures from Democrats and Republicans. Another, started by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), is signed by 53 Democrats, though many of them also signed Rigell’s letter.
But Obama has already made it perfectly clear that he has no intention of putting this before Congress.
He is absolutely determined to attack Syria, and he is not going to let the U.S. Congress or the American people stop him.
Let’s just hope that he doesn’t start World War III in the process.
Obama decides to follow the Constitution and seek Congressional approval for Syrian military strike
Julie Wilson and Alex Jones
August 31, 2013
Obama addressed the public on Saturday from the White House Rose Garden. He confirmed US’s intention to use force against Syria, however, is reportedly waiting to enforce military action until Congress is able to hold a debate and vote on the matter.
“House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Saturday that he expects the House to consider the measure the week of Sept. 9,” reported The Hill.
Obama claims he has the authority to move forward solo, but surprisingly stated it’s important for the country to debate military intervention.
“I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress. The country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be more effective,” said Obama.
His position most likely stems from innumerable world allies and government officials who have strongly voiced their opposition to military involvement in Syria.
Just as Dr. Paul Craig Roberts wrote today in a piece entitled America Totally Discredited, he assesses this is the greatest diplomatic meltdown in US history.
In his report he acknowledges the greatest danger now is that the White House may attempt to stage something else in order to persuade the unconvinced public into a war with Syria.
“The rest of the world has learned to avoid Washington’s rush to war when there is no evidence,” writes Roberts.
Both Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul have come out saying the chemical attacks have all the hallmarks of a false flag or staged event.
In closing, Obama nonchalantly informed the public that the US is in a position to strike, and that the strike could come tomorrow, next week or even a month from now.
A military response is “not time sensitive,” reiterated the President.
Following the UK Parliament’s decision to vote no against Syrian intervention, “Obama indicated he will not wait for either approval from the U.N. Security Council or the conclusion of U.N. inspectors’ investigation into the Syria attack,” reported Fox News.
Obama’s decision to follow the Constitutional law of the republic for now, is a tremendous victory for America.
Russia sharply steps up criticism of U.S. over Syria
By Will Englund, Saturday, August 31, 8:49 AM
MOSCOW – Russia dramatically escalated its denunciations of American threats to attack Syrian military targets on Saturday, with President Vladimir Putin saying it would have been “utter nonsense” for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons as the Obama administration alleges.
The Foreign Ministry, in a statement issued before President Obama said he would seek congressional authorization before ordering strikes on Syria, said a U.S. attack would be a “gross violation” of international law.
Speaking out for the first time since an apparent chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, Putin called on President Obama to find a nonviolent way out of the crisis.
“I would like to address Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate: Before using force in Syria, it would be good to think about future casualties,” Putin told Russian news agencies in Vladivostok during a tour of the country’s flood-stricken Far East.
“Russia is urging you to think twice before making a decision on an operation in Syria,” he said.
The White House argued Friday that intelligence shows more than 1,400 people died from exposure to chemical weapons in an attack carried out by the Syrian military.
Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international — and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict. The government of Bashar al-Assad, he said, would have had no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it had gained the upper hand in the fighting.
Doing so, he said, would have been “utter nonsense’’ – with the clear implication that that is how he would characterize the American allegations.
On top of that, he said, the Obama administration’s “claims that proof exists, but is classified and cannot be presented to anybody, are below criticism. This is plain disrespect for their partners.”
Putin’s comments were soon underlined by a stern statement from the Foreign Ministry. After U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul had finished a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Saturday, the ministry declared, “Russia has expressed its conviction that any forceful action against Syria that the U.S. could carry out in circumvention of the U.N. Security Council would be an act of aggression and a gross violation of international law.”
Putin said he was surprised by the vote in Britain’s Parliament on Thursday not to join a U.S. attack on Syrian military targets. “It shows that there are people guided by common sense there,” he said.
Putin said he and Obama have not discussed Syria since the alleged chemical weapons attack occurred.
The Russian president is fond of needling his opponents, often adopting a tone of apparent reasonableness tinged with a considerable amount of condescension. A U.S. assault on Assad’s government would do nothing to hurt his standing, at home or in many countries abroad, where his contempt for Washington tends to play very well.
“The U.S. president and I certainly discussed this problem at the G-8” summit in June in Northern Ireland, Putin said Saturday. “And, by the way, we agreed then that we would jointly facilitate peace negotiations in Geneva, and the Americans committed themselves to bringing the armed opposition to these negotiations. I understand this is a difficult process, and it looks like they haven’t succeeded in this.”
Obama arrives in St. Petersburg for the G-20 meeting on Thursday and leaves on Friday. The purpose of the gathering is to discuss economic growth, but the White House acknowledges there will be plenty of conversation about Syria on the side. There are currently no plans for a one-on-one meeting between Putin and Obama, who earlier this month decided not to attend a Moscow summit with the Russian president.
On Friday, the head of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of parliament, Alexei Pushkov, said the Nobel committee should strip Obama of his 2009 Peace Prize if he launches an attack on Syria.
White House to hold Sunday Syria briefings for lawmakers (video)
By Ben Geman – 08/31/13 01:40 PM ET
Administration officials are planning classified and unclassified briefings with senators and House members as some lawmakers clamor for the White House to better explain anticipated U.S. strikes against the Syrian regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons this month in the suburbs of Damascus.
Top Obama administration officials including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry will hold separate unclassified phone briefings for Senate Democrats and Republicans Saturday afternoon.
A White House source said National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper would also participate in the calls.
Vice President Joe Biden was also at the White House on Saturday morning, despite his official schedule saying he would be in Delaware with no public events.
White House sources won’t confirm if Biden will be involved with the Senate calls.
Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office said Saturday that administration officials will offer a classified briefing to House members on Sunday afternoon.
The Speaker’s office added that “many classified briefings” will be offered for members who are not in Washington and will be unable to attend Sunday’s briefing.
Also, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) is also making staff members available this weekend to allow lawmakers to review the administration’s classified assessment, delivered late Friday.
The briefings come after the White House on Friday released an intelligence report that said that said 1,429 Syrians — including 426 children — had been killed in the alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs.
President Obama said Friday that the U.S. is considering a “limited” and “narrow” military strike against Syria. The president said the world had "an obligation to make sure we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons," although he had not made a final decision about what actions might be taken.
"This kind of attack is a challenge to the world," Obama said. "We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale."
Obama said that while a "wide range of options" for possible military action was under review, the White House was not considering "any boots-on-the-ground approach."
Syrian rebels plan raids to exploit Western strikes – commander
By Erika Solomon
BEIRUT | Sat Aug 31, 2013 11:51am BST
(Reuters) – Opposition fighters across Syria are preparing to launch attacks that exploit anticipated U.S.-led military strikes, but there are no plans to coordinate with Western forces, a Syrian rebel commander said on Saturday.
The United States said on Friday it was planning a limited response to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a "brutal and flagrant" chemical weapons attack it says killed more than 1,400 people in Damascus 10 days ago. Washington has five cruise-missile equipped destroyers in the region.
The Syrian government denies using chemical arms.
Qassim Saadeddine, a former Syrian army colonel and spokesman for the rebels’ Supreme Military Council, said the council had sent a selection of rebel groups a military plan of action to use if strikes took place.
"The hope is to take advantage when some areas are weakened by any strikes. We ordered some groups to prepare in each province, to ready their fighters for when the strike happens," he told Reuters, speaking by Skype.
"They were sent a military plan that includes preparations to attack some of the targets we expect to be hit in foreign strikes, and some others that we hope to attack at the same time."
The Supreme Military Council is the armed wing linked to the National Coalition, an umbrella group considered to be the opposition’s political leadership abroad.
Saadeddine said the plans had been prepared without any help from foreign powers. He said no information had been offered to them by the United States or any other Western countries such asFrance, which has supported carrying out a strike on Assad.
"The United States considers us to be one of the two parties engaged in a civil war, they haven’t spoken to the rebel leadership at large, though they have communicated to the political leaders in the Coalition," Saadeddine said. "There may have been consultations with the head of our council, Salim Idriss, but I cannot confirm this."
Syria’s two-and-a-half year old conflict began as a peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule but has become a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
Activists said rockets loaded with poison-gas killed hundreds of people in rebel-held areas outside Damascus, many of them children, on August21. The Syrian government blames rebels fighting to topple Assad for the attack, but Washington says its intelligence shows Assad’s forces were responsible.
Saadeddine said his forces assessed that a Western attack would happen in the coming days and would last about three days.
Saadeddine said the rebels liaising with the council had drawn up a list of potential targets for any strike.
"We think it will be something among military sites such as the headquarters of military leadership, military airports, certain weapon storage areas, or launch pads and installations for large missiles such as Scuds," he said.
Other sites seen by rebels as likely targets, Saadeddine said, were those belonging to elite forces believed most loyal to Assad – the Fourth Armoured Division and the Republican Guard. The opposition blames those units for playing a role in the poison gas attack.
Other rebels contacted, without links to the council, said they were also trying to prepare for a potential strike, but that they were struggling to come up with a plan of action.
by Anthony Gucciardi
August 30th, 2013
Updated 08/30/2013 at 7:44 pm
After his MSNBC appearance challenging the talking heads of mainstream media generated millions of views on YouTube in a display of just how much the public craves real information, Russell Brand is now back on air exposing the situation and Syria and the mainstream media propaganda.
Appearing in an interview with Alex Jones that filmed today, Russell brings further credibility to the power of the alternatives news and the collapse of the mega media. In fact, Russell’s breakdown of just how distorted the media reporting on the events in Syria are coincides exactly with what I have been reporting on for a number of weeks now. Ultimately, this is a display of just how much of a difference we are making in the alternative news, and more importantly how many millions we can reach by continuing to push out the truthamid the volley of disinformation coming from the media.
TOP OFFICIALS: ALT NEWS DESTROYING SYRIA WAR MACHINE
We are continually making major strides in the informational battle against skewed news, and this fact is now even being admitted by the very high level officials who seek to send us into Syria-style scenarios that could very well initiate World War 3. One such powerful admission I was extremely pleased to hear about and bring to you was the admission by top Obama adviser and Trilateral Commission co-founder Zbigniew Brzezinski that it was actually the ‘global political awakening’ that was putting a wrench in the Syria war machine.
In other words, elite control freaks like Brzezinski know that we aren’t listening to their warmongering propaganda anymore, and instead we are craving the truth on all fronts. And it’s the public craving for the truth that is halting their entire plan to launch the United States and other nations internationally into a hot war with Syria — one that, despite the information being out there, virtually no one realizes is essentially a major combat scenario with Russia through Assad.
Today’s Russell Brand interview truly highlights the effectiveness of not only alternative news juggernauts like Infowars, Drudge Report, and Storyleak, but the overall power of the entire movement as a whole.
Sixth U.S. ship now in eastern Mediterranean ‘as precaution’
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON | Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:57pm EDT
(Reuters) – A sixth U.S. warship is now operating in the eastern Mediterranean, near five U.S. destroyers armed with cruise missiles that could soon be directed against Syriaas part of a "limited, precise" strike, defense officials said late on Friday.
They stressed that the USS San Antonio, an amphibious ship with several hundred U.S. Marines on board, was in the region for a different reason and there were no plans to put Marines on the ground as part of any military action against Syria.
One of the officials said the San Antonio’s passage into the Mediterranean was long-planned, but officials thought it prudent to keep the ship in the eastern Mediterranean near the destroyers given the current situation.
"It’s been kept there as a precaution," said one of the officials, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The San Antonio transited through the Suez Canal on Thursday from the Red Sea, and received new orders on Friday to remain in the eastern Mediterranean, near the destroyers, according to defense officials. It is one of three ships that are carrying 2,200 Marines who have been on a six-month deployment in the region around the Arabian peninsula.
The Obama administration released evidence on Friday that it said demonstrated the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians. It made clear on Friday that it would punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the "brutal and flagrant" attack that it says killed more than 1,400 people in Damascus last week.
Officials cautioned the operation under discussion involved a limited, precise set of targets that would be of a short duration, unlike the broader campaign against Libya in March 2011.
The U.S. Navy generally keeps three destroyers in the Mediterranean, but kept two additional destroyers there at the end of their deployments as the situation evolved in Syria over the past week.
The five destroyers are each carrying an estimated three dozen or more Tomahawk missiles for a combined total of about 200 missiles, according to defense officials.
Byron Callan, analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, projected that a limited Syrian strike would use about 200 to 300 Tomahawk missiles, compared to about 221 used in the Libya operation.
Defense officials said a more narrowly targeted operation against Syria could involve even less missiles.
They cited a debate within the Obama administration about striking the right balance between a limited cruise missile attack aimed at delivering a message about chemical weapons, and a broader attack that could be seen as a strong insertion of the United States into the Syrian civil war.
Military and civilian officials have expressed the need for caution to avert a cascading military conflict that could have repercussions throughout the region. Some officials have cautioned that even an attack on military helicopters could be seen as part of a U.S. campaign to disable the Syrian military.
Retired Admiral Gary Roughead, who served as chief of naval operations during the 2011 strikes on Libya, said any strike on Syria would have to be targeted precisely to do the maximum amount of damage to Syrian military headquarters and other key sites – and to avert the possibility of retaliatory action.
"If you’re going to try to shape events, you really need to hurt them," said Roughead, now a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. "You would have to do something that would diminish the effectiveness of the Syrian military and that would be their command and control, perhaps their leadership, and then their ability to control air space."
UN weapons inspectors leave Syria earlier than planned
UN weapons experts left Syria earlier than planned this morning, paving the way for a possible US strike after Washington concluded the regime was responsible for last week’s deadly chemical attack.
By Josie Ensor, Raf Sanchez and Peter Foster in Washington and Jon Swaine in New York
5:26AM BST 31 Aug 2013
The 13 inspectors, led by Ake Sellstrom, brought forward their departure from 7am on Saturday to 4am, despite travel being considered dangerous around that time.
Their departure has opened a window for a possible US strike after President Barack Obama on Friday gave his clearest indication yet that a military intervention was imminent.
He said his administration was looking at the possibility of a "limited, narrow act", while stressing no final decision had been taken on whether to unleash military strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Meawhile, Syria said Saturday morning it was expecting a military attack "at any moment" after the last of the inspectors left Damascus.
A Syrian security official told AFP: "We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate at any moment."
The experts are due to report straight back to United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and detail their conclusions on whether a poison gas attack actually did take place on August 21, based on samples collected on site.
However, the results from testing of alleged chemical weapons in Syria could take up to two weeks.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, yesterday dismissed any findings of the inspectors as essentially irrelevant because, he said, their mandate was restricted to determining only if chemical weapons had been used, not who launched the attack.
The departure of the inspectors came as the US moved a sixth warship to the eastern Mediterranean.
The USS San Antonio, an amphibious ship with several hundred US Marines on board, was positioned near five US destroyers armed with cruise missiles that could soon be directed against Syria as part of a "limited, precise" strike, according to defence officials.
One of the officials said the San Antonio’s passage into the Mediterranean was long-planned, but officials thought it prudent to keep the ship in the eastern Mediterranean near the destroyers given the current situation.
"It’s been kept there as a precaution," one said.
US intelligence officials said the Syrian regime had killed 1,429 people in a planned chemical weapons attack last week on the suburbs of Damascus. The death tally was disclosed as officials published detailed evidence to support a possible military strike on Syria.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, warned that "history would judge us" if the world failed to intervene.
American officials released a "substantial body of information" to support their conclusion that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had planned the Aug 21 attack for days.
The four-page document said that intercepted communications between Syrian officials "confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime".
US satellites also picked up rockets being prepared and launched from regime territory into the rebel-held Ghouta area shortly before hundreds of civilians, including 426 children, began to foam at the mouth and fall dead "unstained by a single drop of blood".
"Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas, and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate," Mr Kerry said.
"This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people."
The intelligence had shown beyond all reasonable doubt that the Assad regime carried out the attack, Mr Kerry said.
"The primary question is no longer, ‘What do we know?’ The question is what are we – we collectively – what are we in the world going to do about it?"
He warned that inaction would send a signal to other rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.
"If we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve."
The secretary of state’s impassioned statement came in the face of deep scepticism from some sections of Congress and the American public over whether it should strike against the regime.
Both Mr Kerry and Barack Obama were at pains to reassure the public that any intervention would be limited and would not include "boots on the ground". Mr Obama said: "We’re not considering any open-ended commitment." The president said he would continue consulting with Congress.
Polls show that half of the American people oppose military action while 42 per cent are in favour. Members of Congress have urged Mr Obama to call them back for an emergency session.
The secretary of state acknowledged the wariness Americans felt after the faulty intelligence that led to the Iraq war.
"We will not repeat that moment," he said. However, like the Bush administration before it the Obama White House is facing the prospect of going to war in the Middle East without the blessing of the United Nations. Mr Kerry insisted "we believe in the United Nations" but made clear that the White House would not be constrained by the failure to secure a Security Council resolution.
Barack Obama on Syria: text in full
President Barack Obama outlined his plan to launch military intervention in Syria on Saturday, but said he would seek approval from Congress first. Here is the full transcript of his speech.
Obama speaking today at the White House. Photo: CHARLES DHARAPAK/AP
7:49PM BST 31 Aug 2013
Good afternoon, everybody. Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century. Yesterday the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.
Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place. And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see – hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead. All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children – young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government.
This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.
In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.
Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behaviour, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.
Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order.
But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorisation for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.
Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.
In the coming days, my administration stands ready to provide every member with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America’s national security. And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote.
I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralysed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable. As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.
Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorisation, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.
A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited. I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end. But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.
Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 per cent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?
Make no mistake – this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?
We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.
So just as I will take this case to Congress, I will also deliver this message to the world. While the U.N. investigation has some time to report on its findings, we will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted.
I don’t expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made. Privately we’ve heard many expressions of support from our friends. But I will ask those who care about the writ of the international community to stand publicly behind our action.
And finally, let me say this to the American people: I know well that we are weary of war. We’ve ended one war in Iraq. We’re ending another in Afghanistan. And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.
Instead, we’ll continue to support the Syrian people through our pressure on the Assad regime, our commitment to the opposition, our care for the displaced, and our pursuit of a political resolution that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people.
But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning. And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations. We aren’t perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities.
So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security. I am looking forward to the debate. And in doing so, I ask you, members of Congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment.
Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it’s about who we are as a country. I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments. We do what we say. And we lead with the belief that right makes might – not the other way around.
We all know there are no easy options. But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate. I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons. And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together.
I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.
Thanks very much.
US President Barack Obama to put Syria strike to Congress vote
Delaying what had appeared to be an imminent strike, President Barack Obama announces he will seek congressional approval before launching any military action meant to punish Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds.
6:08PM BST 31 Aug 2013
US President Barack Obama said he will ask the US Congress to authorize military action against Syria, lifting the threat of immediate strikes on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Mr Obama said he had decided he would go ahead and take military action on Syria but he believed it was important for American democracy to win the support of lawmakers.
The decision represents a significant gamble for Obama, who has an estranged relationship with lawmakers, especially Republicans, and he risks suffering the same fate as British Prime Minister David Cameron, who lost his own vote on authorizing military action in parliament.
"I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress," Obama said.
August 31, 2013
During an interview with Newsmax Thursday, three-time presidential adviser Pat Buchanan joined the growing number of mainstream voices now specifically labeling the recent chemical attacks in Syria as a false flag.
“…First, this thing reeks of a false flag operation,” said Buchanan. “I would not understand or comprehend that Bashar al-Assad, no matter how bad a man he may be, would be so stupid as to order a chemical weapons attack on civilians in his own country when the immediate consequence of which might be that he would be at war with the United States. So this reeks of a false flag operation.”
See the video below:
Throughout the course of the Syrian conflict, the Obama administration and its western allies have continually failed at their attempts to bring down the Assad government. Despite the administration’s claims of an “undeniable” Assad chemical attack, US officials have continued to cast doubt on the evidence.
Evidence pointing to a rebel-backed false flag chemical attack to blame Assad has continued to pile up as public approval for a Syrian intervention crumbles. Not only did the British parliament vote down the Cameron government’s attempts to intervene militarily, A Reuters poll from earlier this week found that 91 percent of Americans oppose military air strikes.
Just last Thursday, Al-Qaeda-backed Syrian rebels admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they had carried out the chemical attacks after being supplied the weapons from Saudi Arabia. The information backs up comments made by Syria’s deputy foreign minister as well as multiple YouTube videos showing the US funded rebels launching chemical attacks with “Saudi factory” labeled weapons.
Ron Paul’s statement calling the chemical attacks a false flag while on Fox News last Wednesday has seemingly opened the flood gates for other journalists to come forward with their similar findings. During an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News Friday, photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie, who was kidnapped and held captive by Syrian rebels for 81 days last April, said he also believed the recent chemical attack was a rebel backed false flag operation.
This coincides with the fact that Obama is now publicly on the same side as Al-Qaeda, as Anthony Gucciardi has broken down:
While the mainstream media has ridiculed and almost completely ignored the historical reality of false flag operations, prominent voices within the alternative news have now forced the term into the public narrative. The power structure has begun to panic from what they themselves have deemed the “global political awakening.” Powerful documentary films have been incremental tools in relaying information to the public on historical examples of state-sponsored terror.
Does Obama know he’s fighting on al-Qa’ida’s side?
Tuesday 27 August 2013
‘All for one and one for all’ should be the battle cry if the West goes to war against Assad’s Syrian regime
If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.
Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.
The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.
This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House – nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida – though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates. But it does raise some interesting possibilities.
Maybe the Americans should ask al-Qa’ida for intelligence help – after all, this is the group with “boots on the ground”, something the Americans have no interest in doing. And maybe al-Qa’ida could offer some target information facilities to the country which usually claims that the supporters of al-Qa’ida, rather than the Syrians, are the most wanted men in the world.
There will be some ironies, of course. While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front.
And our own Prime Minister will applaud whatever the Americans do, thus allying himself with al-Qa’ida, whose London bombings may have slipped his mind. Perhaps – since there is no institutional memory left among modern governments – Cameron has forgotten how similar are the sentiments being uttered by Obama and himself to those uttered by Bush and Blair a decade ago, the same bland assurances, uttered with such self-confidence but without quite enough evidence to make it stick.
In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and conmen. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback?
And while we’re talking about institutional memory, hands up which of our jolly statesmen know what happened last time the Americans took on the Syrian government army? I bet they can’t remember. Well it happened in Lebanon when the US Air Force decided to bomb Syrian missiles in the Bekaa Valley on 4 December 1983. I recall this very well because I was here in Lebanon. An American A-6 fighter bomber was hit by a Syrian Strela missile – Russian made, naturally – and crash-landed in the Bekaa; its pilot, Mark Lange, was killed, its co-pilot, Robert Goodman, taken prisoner and freighted off to jail in Damascus. Jesse Jackson had to travel to Syria to get him back after almost a month amid many clichés about “ending the cycle of violence”. Another American plane – this time an A-7 – was also hit by Syrian fire but the pilot managed to eject over the Mediterranean where he was plucked from the water by a Lebanese fishing boat. His plane was also destroyed.
Sure, we are told that it will be a short strike on Syria, in and out, a couple of days. That’s what Obama likes to think. But think Iran. Think Hezbollah. I rather suspect – if Obama does go ahead – that this one will run and run.
Syrian rebels pledge loyalty to al-Qaeda
Mona Alami, Special for USA TODAY9:04 a.m. EDT June 14, 2013
(Photo: AP/Edlib News Network ENN)
BEIRUT — A Syrian rebel group’s April pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda’s replacement for Osama bin Laden suggests that the terrorist group’s influence is not waning and that it may take a greater role in the Western-backed fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The pledge of allegiance by Syrian Jabhat al Nusra Front chief Abou Mohamad al-Joulani to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri was coupled with an announcement by the al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, that it would work with al Nusra as well.
Lebanese Sheik Omar Bakri, a Salafist who says states must be governed by Muslim religious law, says al-Qaeda has assisted al Nusra for some time.
"They provided them early on with technical, military and financial support , especially when it came to setting up networks of foreign jihadis who were brought into Syria," Bakri says. "There will certainly be greater coordination between the two groups."
The United States, which supports the overthrow of Assad, designated al Nusra a terrorist entity in December. The Obama administration has said it wants to support only those insurgent groups that are not terrorist organizations.
Al Nusra and groups like it have seen some of the most significant victories against Syrian government forces in the course of the 2-year-old uprising in which Assad’s forces have killed about 80,000 people. Rebels not affiliated with al-Qaeda have pressed Washington for months to send weaponry that will allow them to match the heavy weapons of the Syrian army. They’ve urged the West to mount an air campaign against Assad’s mechanized forces.
President Obama refuses to provide any direct military aid. Foreign radical Islamists streaming into the fight from the Middle East and Europe are making headway with the Syrian population by providing services and gaining ground in battles.
Tamer Mouhieddine, spokesman for the Syrian Free Army, a force made up of Syrian soldiers who have defected, said the recent announcements would not change his group’s attitude toward al Nusra.
"The rebels in Syria have one common enemy — Bashar Assad — and they will collaborate with any faction allowing them to topple his regime," he said.
He confirmed that al Nusra is generating loyalty in Aleppo, a region battling for months with Assad, by providing financial support as well as setting up charities.
Aaron Zelin at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington says al Nusra’s ability to provide security and basic needs such as bread and fuel to Syrian civilians, as well as to reopen shops and restart bus services, has won gratitude from people who would not usually adhere to its strict ideology.
Zelin says some Syrian people have criticized al Nusra for banning alcohol, forcing women to wear a full veil and whipping men who are seen with women in public.
"This illustrates the need for American leadership in the Syrian conflict, particularly with regard to helping non-Qaeda-aligned rebels contain the growth of (al Nusra) and similar groups," he said. "Washington should also try to take advantage of cleavages within the rebellion and civilian population, since al Nusra is outside the mainstream and more concerned with establishing a transnational caliphate than maintaining the Syrian state."
Groups such as the Islamic Liwaa al Tawhid, which collaborates with al Nusra on military operations, worried that Assad would use the announcement from al Nusra as evidence for his claim that he is fighting terrorists, not Syrian citizens who wish an end to his dictatorship, Mouhieddine said.
"We are willing to fight alongside any faction targeting the Assad regime, as long as it does not have a foreign agenda, which seems now the case" of al Nusra, he said.
Obama authorizes secret support for Syrian rebels
By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 1, 2012 9:04pm EDT
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, sources familiar with the matter said.
Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence "finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad.
This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still circumscribed, support for Assad’s armed opponents – a shift that intensified following last month’s failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.
The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.
But U.S. and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad’s opponents as a disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble.
Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.
The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment.
A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.
Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.
This "nerve center" is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.
Turkey’s moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S. government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.
European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad’s departure.
On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, weapons that could be used against Assad’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Syrian government armed forces have employed such air power more extensively in recent days.
NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.
On Wednesday, however, Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the Free Syrian Army, denied the NBC report, telling the Arabic-language TV network Al-Arabiya that the group had "not obtained any such weapons at all." U.S. government sources said they could not confirm the MANPADs deliveries, but could not rule them out either.
Current and former U.S. and European officials previously said that weapons supplies, which were being organized and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were largely limited to guns and a limited number of anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas.
Indications are that U.S. agencies have not been involved in providing weapons to Assad’s opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a supplement, known as a "memorandum of notification, to his initial broad intelligence finding.
Further such memoranda would have to be signed by Obama to authorize other specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels.
Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive authorizing greater U.S. covert assistance to Syrian rebels. It was unclear at that time whether Obama had signed it.
Separately from the president’s secret order, the Obama administration has stated publicly that it is providing some backing for Assad’s opponents.
The State Department said on Wednesday the U.S. government had set aside a total of $25 million for "non-lethal" assistance to the Syrian opposition. A U.S. official said that was mostly forcommunications equipment, including encrypted radios.
The State Department also says the United States has set aside $64 million in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid agencies.
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury confirmed it had granted authorization to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of one of the most active rebel factions, the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the rebel group’s behalf. The authorization was first reported on Friday by Al-Monitor, a Middle East news and commentary website.
Last year, when rebels began organizing themselves to challenge the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Obama also signed an initial "finding" broadly authorizing secret U.S. backing for them. But the president moved cautiously in authorizing specific measures to support them.
Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.
Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.
Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.
U.S. and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not believe the militants’ role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.
While U.S. and allied government experts believe that the Syrian rebels have been making some progress against Assad’s forces lately, most believe the conflict is nowhere near resolution, and could go on for years.
August 31, 2013
Khalid Shakfeh, a microbiology student at the University of South Florida, was questioned by officials with the Department of Defense (DoD) after he returned from a trip to Syria in which he helped transport and provide humanitarian materials, reported WTSP.
The 18-year old student is an American citizen born of Syrian immigrants. Shakfeh and his sister traveled with the Syrian American Council, a group that aims at supporting human rights, civil liberties and promotes a friendly relationship between Syria and the US.
During the March trip, Shakfeh said he provided basic medical supplies like gauze, Tylenol and Advil to Syrians who lacked access to basic necessities.
Upon his return, Shakfeh says he was contacted by the MacDill-based U.S. Special Operations Command(SOCOM), a group that specializes in synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks.
“What did you? What were the people there facing? What do they need and things like that?” asked SOCOM officials.
Shakfeh told officials that he could provide them the “best” and “most clear” answers if they submitted their questions in writing. SOCOM failed to submit to his request.
A few days later officials sought after Shakfeh again, this time at his father’s medical practice. The American student stood his ground again telling the DoD officials that he would submit his answers if they provided him the questions in writing. The DoD declined and Shakfeh says he hasn’t heard from them since.
“The FBI and other government agencies actively targeting us just to harass… a means of harassment,” Shakfeh said.
Spokesperson for the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hassan Shibly, said he’s seen patterns of the US government targeting people based on their background, color, and religion, questioning and harassing them without cause.
He calls the behavior by the DoD “un-American and unacceptable.”
The fact the US government has been targeting US Syrian immigrants for some time now, illustrates the US’s perception of the relationship between the two countries.
As of Friday, the US announced no specific plans on how they intend to move forward on the Syrian conflict, but has moved a sixth warship into the Mediterranean as a “precaution.”
The US currently has six warships in place, with reportedly five destroyers each carrying an estimated three dozen or more Tomahawk missiles for a combined total of about 200 missiles, according to a Reuters report.
White House peeved at Pentagon leaks
By GLENN THRUSH |
8/30/13 5:10 PM EDT
Many of the leaks about U.S. strike plans for Syria, a copious flow of surprisingly specific information on ship dispositions and possible targets, have been authorized as a way for President Obama to signal the limited scope of operations to friends and foes.
But a number of leaks have been decidedly unauthorized — and, according to Obama administration sources, likely emanating from a Pentagon bureaucracy less enthusiastic about the prospect of an attack than, say, the State Department, National Security Council or Obama himself.
"Deeply unhelpful," was how one West Winger described the drip-drip of doubt.
"They need to shut the f–k up," said a former administration official. "It’s embarrassing. Who ever heard this much talk before an attack? It’s bizarre."
An obvious example was a report in Thursday’s Washington Post in which current and former officers listed their worries about Syria:
“I can’t believe the president is even considering it,” said [one] officer, who like most officers interviewed for this story agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because military personnel are reluctant to criticize policymakers while military campaigns are being planned. “We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”
Far more damaging have been a series of disclosures that more subtlely undermine Obama’s claim that the Syria action will be quick and clean, punitive and tailored. Earlier this week theNew York Times reported on doubts that the main weapon likely employed against Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Tomahawk cruise missile, would have a meaningful impact on the regime’s chemical weapons facilities which are widely scattered and likely to be well hidden. This graf, I’m told, chafed in particular:
The weapons are not often effective against mobile targets, like missile launchers, and cannot be used to attack underground bunkers. Naval officers and attack planners concede that the elevation of the missile cannot entirely be controlled and that there is a risk of civilian casualties when they fly slightly high.
The back-and-forth is hardly unprecedented; For decades, military officials — the people who actually have to implement war plans — have been a source of dissent. Think Pentagon Papers. And Obama officials say the criticism isn’t coming from Secretary Chuck Hagel and his cadre of top aides but lower-ranking brass.
One top leader who has been publicly skeptical of the costs and dangers of getting involved in the Syrian civil war is Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey who offered a cost estimate of $1 billion per month for a no-fly zone and buffer-zone ground force during congressional testimony earlier this summer.
During the same appearance Dempsey predicted such areas could become sanctuaries for Islamic radicals and said even a limited strike, of the type being contemplated now, could cost "billions."
August 31, 2013
Following twin war drum speeches by Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama on Friday, the corporate media, led by the traditional master of war propaganda, the New York Times, speculated that the United States might not attack Syria if it can’t nail down support.
“Deprived of the support of Britain, America’s most stalwart wartime ally, the Obama administration scrambled behind the scenes to build international support elsewhere for a strike that might begin as early as this weekend,” the Time reports. “Officials were still holding out hope that at least one Arab country might publicly join the military coalition.”
One Arab nation? How pathetic. None of this matters because so-called partners, consensus and the “need to establish American credibility” has little to do with the drive to bomb Syria.
Bombing Syria — or any other country — is about business: the prospect of bombs over Damascus is about profits for the military-industrial complex. It is about transnational corporations and international banks that stand to gain both obscene profits and unprecedented political power in a geopolitical chess game.
If you doubt this, check out the graphs below. They reveal something not broadcast on the front page of the New York Times: wars and rumors of war drive the markets.
Death merchant Raytheon’s stock price went to a 52-week high this week.
Lockheed Martin saw its stock spike to a six month high on Monday, the day war propaganda started up in earnest.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the banker Nathan Mayer Rothschild was instrumental in financing the British war effort. He not only organized the shipment of bullion to the Duke of Wellington’s armies scattered across Europe, he also received and used to his advantage political and financial information denied his competitors. Rothschild famously exploited news of England’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo to manipulate the markets and bought up the bond market after the war.
It’s no different now. Corporations and banks — far more powerful today than in Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s day — invariably drive the United States government to war. Speeches by the blue blood John Kerry Heinz and the teleprompter reader Obama who was carefully groomed by the CIA to be the first black president — and thus more teflon coated than Ronald Reagan — are minor players.
Paul Craig Roberts
August 31, 2013
A foolish President Obama and moronic Secretary of State Kerry have handed the United States government its worst diplomatic defeat in history and destroyed the credibility of the Office of the President, the Department of State, and the entire executive branch. All are exposed as a collection of third-rate liars.
Intoxicated with hubris from past successful lies and deceptions used to destroy Iraq and Libya, Obama thought the US “superpower,” the “exceptional” and “indispensable” country, could pull it off again, this time in Syria.
But the rest of the world has learned to avoid Washington’s rush to war when there is no evidence. A foolish Obama was pushed far out on the limb by an incompetent and untrustworthy National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, and the pack of neoconservatives that support her, and the British Parliament cut the limb off.
What kind of fool would put himself in that vulnerable position?
Now Obama stands alone, isolated, trying to back away from his threat to attack without authorization from anyone–not from the UN, not from NATO, not from Congress who he ignored–a sovereign country. Under the Nuremberg Standard military aggression is a war crime. Washington has until now got away with its war crimes by cloaking them in UN or NATO approval. Despite these “approvals,” they remain war crimes.
But his National Security Advisor and the neocon warmongers are telling him that he must prove that he is a Real Man who can stand alone and commit war crimes all by himself without orchestrated cover from the UN or NATO or a cowardly US Congress. It is up to Obama, they insist, to establish for all time that the President of the United States is above all law. He, and he alone is the “decider,” the Caesar, who determines what is permissible. The Caesar of the “sole superpower” must now assert his authority over all law or Washington’s hegemony over the world is lost.
As I noted in an earlier column today, if Obama goes it alone, he will be harassed for the rest of his life as a war criminal who dares not leave the US. Indeed, a looming economic collapse could so alter the power and attitude of the United States that Obama could find himself brought to justice for his war crimes.
Regardless, the United States government has lost its credibility throughout the world and will never regain it, unless the Bush and Obama regimes are arrested and put on trial for their war crimes.
Obama’s destruction of US credibility goes far beyond diplomacy. It is likely that this autumn or winter, and almost certainly in 2014, the US will face severe economic crisis.
The long-term abuse of the US dollar’s reserve currency role by the Federal Reserve and US Treasury, the never-ending issuance of new debt and printing of dollars to finance it, the focus of US economic policy on bailing out the “banks too big to fail” regardless of the adverse impact on domestic and world economies and holders of US Treasury debt, the awaiting political crisis of the unresolved deficit and debt ceiling limit that will greet Congress’ return to Washington in September, collapsing job opportunities and a sinking economy all together present the government in Washington with a crisis that is too large for the available intelligence, knowledge, and courage to master.
When the proverbial hits the fan, the incompetent and corrupt Federal Reserve and the incompetent and corrupt US Treasury will have no more credibility than Obama and John Kerry.
The rest of the world–especially Washington’s bullied NATO puppet states–will take great delight in the discomfort of “the world’s sole superpower” that has been running on hubris ever since the Soviet collapse.
The world is not going to bail out Washington, now universally hated, with currency swaps, more loans, and foreign aid. Americans are going to pay heavily for their negligence, their inattention, their unconcern, and their ignorant belief that nothing can go wrong for them and that anything that does is temporary.
Two decades of jobs offshoring has left the US with a third world labor force employed in lowly paid domestic nontradable services, a workforce comparable to India’s of 40 years ago. Already the “world’s sole superpower” is afflicted with a large percentage of its population dependent on government welfare for survival. As the economy closes down, the government’s ability to meet the rising demands of survival diminishes. The rich will demand that the poor be sacrificed in the interest of the rich. And the political parties will comply.
Is this the reason that Homeland Security, a Nazi Gestapo institution, now has a large and growing para-military force equipped with tanks, drones, and billions of rounds of ammunition?
How long will it be before American citizens are shot down in their streets by “their” government as occurs frequently in Washington’s close allies in Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain?
Americans have neglected the requirements of liberty. Americans are so patriotic and so gullible that all the government has to do is to wrap itself in the flag, and the people, or too many of them, believe whatever lie the government tells. And the gullible people will defend the government’s lie to their death, indeed, to the death of the entire world.
If Americans keep believing the government’s lies, they have no future. If truth be known, Americans have already lost a livable future. The neocons’ “American Century” is over before it begun.
Update: I have heard from educated and aware friends that the presstitute media on the evening news are beating the drums for war. This shows what paid whores the US media is and their total disconnect from reality. Anyone who wastes their time on the US media is a brainwashed idiot, a danger to humanity.
Update 8:52 PM August 30: Is the White House idiot going to be a victim of his own careless presidential appointments?
Does he have no one to tell him how to escape the dilemma his moronic Secretary of State and National Security Advisor have put him in? Someone needs to tell the WH Fool that he must say that he accepts the conclusion of the world community that there is not sufficient evidence for launching a military attack on Syria and killing even more people than were killed in the alleged, but unproven, chemical attack, and that he awaits further and better evidence.
God help the moron and the unfortunate country that the fool represents.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.
PM: Syria’s army has ‘finger on the trigger’
Saturday, 31 August 2013
The Syrian regime is ready to retaliate to a military strike ‘at any moment.’ (File photo: Reuters)
Syria’s army is ready for potential foreign strikes against it and has its “finger on the trigger,” Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said in comments carried Saturday on state television, Agence France-Presse reported.
“The Syrian army is fully ready, its finger on the trigger to face any challenge or scenario that they want to carry out,” AFP quoted him as saying in a written statement aired on television.
Syria is expecting a military strike “at any moment,” a security official said on Saturday, Only hours after U.N. inspectors left the country after investigating the aftermath of suspected chemical weapons attacks said to be perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a security official said on Saturday that Syria is expecting a military strike “at any moment.”
“We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate at any moment,” an unnamed Syrian security official told AFP news agency.
The departure of the U.N. inspectors has given the United States an opportunity to carry out a military strike, after President Barack Obama on Friday indicated that military intervention was pending.
The U.S. president said that his administration was looking at the possibility of a “limited, narrow act,” while emphasizing that no final decision had yet been made on possible military strikes against the Syrian regime.
The U.N. inspectors are due to report back to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and present their conclusion on whether or not a poison gas attack took place on August 21.
The Syrian regime has denied responsibility for the alleged attacks which the U.S. government says caused the deaths of some 1,400 people.