Syria War: Where is the “evidence” ?

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Putin says US should present Syria chemical weapons evidence to UN Security Council

August 31, 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the United States should present its evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria to the UN Security Council, and has said that it would be “utter nonsense” for the Syrian government to have carried out the alleged chemical weapons attacks, according to the Reuters news agency. Putin also expressed surprise at the fact that the British parliament had voted against taking part in a military intervention in Syria. The Russian president said that if the US carried out unilateral military operations against Syria it would be “extremely sad”, and that the G20 summit in St Petersburg scheduled for next week could be a platform to discuss the crisis in Syria.

Source = Aljazeera

The Washington Post

More than 1,400 killed in Syrian chemical weapons attack, U.S. says

Three days before the rockets fell outside D

Unknown to Syrian officials, U.S. spy agencies recorded each step in the alleged chemical attack, from the extensive preparations to the launching of rockets to the after-action assessments by Syrian officials. Those records and intercepts would become the core of the Obama administration’s evidentiary case linking the Syrian government to what one official called an “indiscriminate, inconceivable horror” — the use of outlawed toxins to kill nearly 1,500 civilians, including at least 426 children.

Pulling back the curtain on some of the United States’ most sensitive collection efforts, the Obama administration released on Friday its long-awaited intelligence assessment of the Aug. 21 event, explaining in rare detail the basis for its claim that Syria was behind the release of deadly gas, the grisly effects of which have been documented in more than 100 amateur videos. The four-page assessment and accompanying map revealed for the first time how communications intercepts and satellite imagery picked up key decisions and actions on the ground. In choosing to release the document, White House officials anticipated the likely comparisons to the famously inaccurate intelligence reports from a decade ago that claimed that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in his remarks on the release of the intelligence assessment, said White House officials were “more than mindful of the Iraq experience.”

“We will not repeat that moment,” Kerry said. “Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people who can judge for themselves.”

Source = Washington Post

FT

Vladimir Putin challenges US to show UN its Syria evidence

August 31, 2013

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin has challenged the US to give the UN its evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for chemical weapons attacks that killed more than 1,400 people. Mr Putin said it would be “utter nonsense” for President Bashar al-Assad to resort to chemical weapons because he was in a position of strength in Syria’s two-and-a-half-year civil war and warned US President Barack Obama against attacking. Mr Obama said on Friday he was considering a “limited narrow act” with “no open-ended commitment” after John Kerry, his secretary of state, said Washington had “clear and compelling” evidence of the Syrian regime’s responsibility for a chemical weapons attack in eastern Damascus on August 21 that the US alleges killed 1,429 people. A US-led strike, expected to be of ship-launched cruise missiles against Syrian military facilities, could come at any time after UN weapons inspectors left Syria on Saturday morning.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said it was “grotesque” to suggest the weapons inspectors’ departure on Saturday provided an opportunity for a US-led strike, stressing that there were still more than 1000 UN personnel in Syria. He said the UN inspectors were collating samples collected in Syria before testing in laboratories in Europe. “The UN is uniquely capable of establishing in an impartial and credible manner the use of chemical weapons,” he said, but gave no timetable for the results. Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, has said it could take up to two weeks to analyse the evidence but Mr Obama is not expected to wait that long if he does decide to strike. The White House and defence and intelligence officials are due to brief senators on Saturday afternoon on the information they have gathered on the gas attack.

Source = FT

CNN

‘War-weary’ Obama says Syria chemical attack requires response

August 30, 2013

Declaring himself “war-weary” but determined to hold Syria accountable for using banned chemical weapons, President Barack Obama said Friday he was considering a limited response to what U.S. intelligence assessed with “high confidence” as a Syrian attack that killed more than 1,400 people. Obama told reporters he had yet to make a final decision, but hinted at a military strike that sources and experts say would entail cruise missiles fired from U.S. Navy ships at Syrian command targets — but not at any chemical weapons stockpiles.

“It is not in the national security interests of the United States to ignore clear violations” of what he called an “international norm” banning the use of chemical weapons, Obama said at a meeting with visiting heads of Baltic nations Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. He called the Syrian attack a “challenge to the world” that threatens U.S. allies Israel, Turkey and Jordan while increasing the risk of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. President Bashar al-Assad’s government has claimed that jihadists fighting with the rebels carried out the chemical weapons attacks on August 21 to turn global sentiments against it, a claim dismissed by Obama and others who say there is no evidence to support that claim.

Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry released details of a declassified U.S. intelligence report in an effort to muster support at home and abroad for a military response against al-Assad’s government. However, NATO allies want the United Nations to authorize any military response, something that both Kerry and Obama said was unlikely because of opposition by permanent Security Council member Russia, a Syrian ally.

“My preference would have been that the international community already would have acted,” Obama said, citing “the inability of the Security Council to move in the face of a clear violation of international norms.”

He expressed frustration with the lack of international support, saying that “a lot of people think something should be done, but nobody seems willing to do it.” “It’s important for us to recognize that when over 1,000 people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal that that international norm doesn’t mean much,” Obama said. “And that is a danger to our national security.” Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Lukashevich dismissed the threats by the United States as “unacceptable.”

“Washington’s statements threatening to apply force to Syria are unacceptable,” Lukashevich said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website. He added that United Nations weapons inspectors are still investigating and “without any proof we are hearing threats of striking Syria.” “Even U.S. allies have called for ‘taking a break’ to wait for the U.N. experts to complete their work in order to get an objective picture of what happened there,” he said.

The White House has made clear that the United States will respond in some form to the use of chemical weapons. Previously, it ruled out U.S. troops on the ground or imposing a no-fly zone. Sources have indicated a campaign of limited strikes by cruise missiles fired from U.S. naval ships in the region, targeting military command centers but not chemical weapons stockpiles, is the likely option. The British Parliament vote and demands by other key European allies, including France and Germany, to put off a decision until after the U.N. inspectors report on what happened in Syria have slowed the response time. Hollande told Le Monde newspaper that intervention should be limited and not be directed toward al-Assad’s overthrow, a position also expressed by Obama. Also Friday, former President Jimmy Carter, said

“a punitive military response without a U.N. Security Council mandate or broad support from NATO and the Arab League would be illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has repeatedly said the United States will respond to Syria in concert with allies. “Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together,” he told journalists Friday in Manila, Philippines.

Source = CNN

BBC

Syria chemical weapons attack killed 1,429, says John Kerry

August 30, 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Syrian government forces of killing 1,429 people in a chemical weapons attack in Damascus last week. Mr Kerry said the dead included 426 children, and described the attack as an “inconceivable horror”. President Barack Obama later said the US was considering a “limited narrow act” in response. Syria has dismissed Mr Kerry’s statement as “full of lies”, insisting the rebels carried out the attack. State-run news agency Sana said Mr Kerry, who cited a US intelligence assessment, was using “material based on old stories which were published by terrorists over a week ago”. The US says its assessment is backed by accounts from medical personnel, witnesses, journalists, videos and thousands of social media reports. UN chemical weapons inspectors are investigating the alleged poison-gas attacks and will present preliminary findings to the UN after they leave Damascus on Saturday.

But Mr Kerry said the US already had the facts, and nothing that the UN weapons inspectors found could tell the world anything new. He highlighted evidence in the assessment that regime forces had spent three days in eastern Damascus preparing for the attack. “We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and landed only in opposition-held areas,” he said. “All of these things we know, the American intelligence community has high confidence.” Mr Kerry called Mr Assad “a thug and a murderer” but said any response by the US would be carefully measured and would not involve a protracted campaign like Iraq or Afghanistan. However, the UN Security Council is unlikely to approve any military intervention because permanent member Russia is a close ally of the Syrian government.

Russia, along with China, has vetoed two previous draft resolutions on Syria. The US was also dealt a blow on Thursday when the UK parliament rejected a motion supporting the principle of military intervention. The vote rules the UK out of any potential military alliance. British Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr Obama spoke over the telephone on Friday, agreeing to continue to co-operate on international issues. The president told Mr Cameron he “fully respected” the approach taken by the UK government, according to the prime minister’s office. US officials said they would continue to push for a coalition, and France said it was ready to take action in Syria alongside the US. Neither France nor the US need parliamentary approval for action.

Source = BBC News

skynews_hd_logo

Syria: Regime ‘Ready To Retaliate’ To Strike

August 31, 2013

Syria expects a military attack “at any moment” after UN chemical weapons inspectors left the country, a security official has said. A UN team investigating an alleged gas attack crossed the Lebanese border on Saturday and have now arrived back in the Netherlands, heightening expectations of a possible US-led strike against President Bashar al Assad’s forces. A Syrian official told AFP: “We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate at any moment.” Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the inspectors’ departure by challenging the US to present evidence of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime to the UN Security Council. He said it would be “utter nonsense” for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it was winning the war, and urged US President Barack Obama not to attack Syrian forces. Mr Putin said: “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.”

The 13-strong UN team left their hotel in Damascus in seven vehicles and then crossed the border into Lebanon, where they have arrived at Beirut international airport. Yesterday, they finished collecting samples from the site of an alleged gas attack that the US claims killed more than 1,400 people, which they will now take to The Hague to be analysed. A UN spokesman stressed that all available information, including lab analysis of the samples, had to be evaluated “before the mission can draw any conclusions about the incident”. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Security Council members that may take two weeks.

A UN spokesman is expected to make a statement at 5.30pm BST following a meeting between Mr Ban and Angela Kane – the UN disarmament chief who was with the team in Damascus.  The inspectors left hours after the US outlined the evidence it believes proves Mr Assad’s forces were behind the attack. A US intelligence report blamed Syria’s government for the attack with “high confidence” and said it was “highly unlikely” the atrocity was plotted by rebels. The report said 1,429 people were killed, including 426 children, and the assessment was based on “multiple” streams of intelligence. The Assad regime has denied using chemical weapons, saying the assault was carried out by rebels, and dismissed the US report as “entirely fabricated”.

Source = Sky News

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Obama says US has ‘obligation’ to act on Syria, cites intel findings

August 30, 2013

President Obama signaled Friday that the U.S. could act alone to punish Syria for a chemical weapons attack last week, saying the nation has an “obligation as a leader in the world” to hold rogue regimes to account for breaching the rules of war. Facing rising skepticism in Congress and abroad, the president and top Cabinet officials tried to make a robust case for intervention on Friday — releasing an intelligence report showing “high confidence” the Assad regime carried out the strike and arguing that responding would be in the U.S. interest. “This kind of attack is a challenge to the world,” Obama said, adding: “A lot of people think something should be done, but nobody wants to do it.” He said his preference would be to form an international coalition to respond, but “we don’t want the world to be paralyzed.” Obama said he hasn’t yet made a decision, but is considering a “limited, narrow act” to send a message to Syria and others about the use of chemical weapons.

The comments put in stark terms the Obama administration’s position on the possibility of a military response — and particularly a missile strike — despite fraying international support. The administration so far has failed to win over the U.N. Security Council, and British lawmakers on Thursday voted to reject any participation in a military strike. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, though, indicated they were prepared to move forward and downplayed the importance of U.N. authorization. Obama charged that there is an “incapacity” at this point for the U.N. Security Council to act. As U.N. inspectors pull out of Syria following a week-long investigation into the attack, Kerry said the probe would not implicate anybody; only confirm whether the weapons were used. “By the definition of their own mandate, the U.N. can’t tell us anything we haven’t shared with you this afternoon or that we don’t already know,” Kerry said.

Source = Fox News

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