US Ready To Strike Syria As Forces Wait For President’s Nod
konknaijaboy | On 29, Aug 2013
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the American military is already prepared to act if President Barack Obama gives the order – though White House aides said no final decision had been taken.
Warplanes and military transporters have been spotted at a British air base on Cyprus, less than 160km from the Syrian coast, The Guardian reported.
Analysts expect to see cruise missiles launched from US and allied submarines, ships and possibly planes, firing into Syria from outside its waters and airspace.
The White House said that any US action would be to defend the principle that chemical weapons should not be used – and would not aim to topple Assad, despite previous calls for him to go.
The Syrian opposition has alleged that the Syrian Army’s Fourth Armoured Division, commanded by the president’s brother Maher al-Assad, was behind last week’s alleged massacre.
The violent and hot-headed military leader has not been seen in more than a year, The Daily Mail reports.
Maher has been at the centre of some of the bloodiest incidents of the conflict so far. It was reported during the uprising in 2011, Maher was spotted shooting at unarmed civilians.
Joshua Landis from the Centre for the Middle Eastern Studies at Oklahoma University said it would be unlikely a command for an attack did not come from the president.
“It’s inconceivable to me,” Landis told Bloomberg. “There has been nothing to indicate that Bashar is just a figurehead.”
Britain and France also moved to back the use of force in Syria, while the White House promised to provide declassified evidence this week to prove that last Wednesday’s chemical attack was the work of regime forces.
Syria has also challenged the United States to prove the attack was perpetrated by regime forces, even as it warned the US it would defend itself against any Western forces.
Syria’s Chemical Weapons Attack Unacceptable And Cannot Go Unanswered – NATO
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that a variety of sources pointed to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces being responsible for the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Speaking after a meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels, Rasmussen said any use of such weapons was “unacceptable and cannot go unanswered”, although he did not suggest any response.
“This is a clear breach of long-standing international norms and practice… those responsible must be held accountable,” he said in a statement.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Rasmussen said the military alliance would keep the situation in Syria under “close review.”
His comments came as the United States and its allies pressed their case for likely military action against Assad’s government, despite stern warnings against intervention from Damascus’ key allies Russia and Iran.
Britain plans to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on Wednesday which will condemn suspected chemical attacks in Syria and demand “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.
Britain’s national security council met on Wednesday and unanimously backed action against Syria, and Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled parliament from a summer recess for a debate on the crisis.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, said that international military action could be carried out only after it has been approved by the Security Council.
“I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council,” he told reporters in Geneva.
Syria has denied that it carried out the attack, and challenged world powers to provide evidence that it had done so.
Meanwhile, UN chemical weapons experts investigating the attack that killed hundreds of civilians in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus finished a second trip to Ghouta to take samples.
The inspectors’ first such visit on Monday was briefly suspended after the UN’s convoy came under sniper fire from unidentified gunmen, though they did visit two field hospitals to collect evidence.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it would take the inspectors four days to finish gathering evidence, and they would then need time to analyse their findings.
Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday that US intervention in Syria would be “a disaster for the region”, the ISNA state news agency reported.
“The intervention of supra-regional and foreign powers in one country will have no result other than lighting a fire and increase the hatred people have for them,” the agency quoted Khamenei as saying.
“This lighting of a fire is like a spark in a gunpowder magazine whose dimensions and consequences are unknown.”
On Tuesday, US Vice-President Joe Biden became the highest ranking US official to accuse Syria’s government of having carried out the attack, asserting that there was “no doubt” that the government was “responsible for this heinous” act.
Also on Tuesday, Chuck Hagel, the US Defence Secretary, repeated previous statements that US forces were now positioned to strike Assad’s forces should the decision to take military action be made. [AlJazeera]
US To Send Assad ‘Strong Signal’ Over Chemical Weapons Use
US President Barack Obama is vowing that American retaliation for Syrian chemical weapons use would send a “strong signal,” as US intelligence officials readied briefings for Congress on evidence aimed at linking last week’s attack to President Bashar Assad’s government.
But even as the US moves closer to possible military action, new hurdles appear to be slowing the formation of an international coalition to undertake military action. And questions remain about the strength of the case against Assad.
Russia blocked British efforts to seek a force resolution at the United Nations. British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would hold off on joining any military efforts until a UN chemical weapons inspection team releases its findings – a step that is unlikely to happen until next week.
Still, the Obama administration vowed to take action even without the backing of allies or the UN The president said that while he had not settled on a response to last week’s purported chemical weapons attack near Damascus, he said the US has concluded that Assad’s regime perpetrated the attack, which killed at least 100 Syrians.
“And if that’s so,” Obama said during an interview with NewsHour on PBS, “then there need to be international consequences.”
Obama did not present specific evidence to back up his assertion that the Assad regime is responsible for the August 21 attack.
US officials were also in search of additional intelligence to bolster the White House’s case for a strike against Assad’s military infrastructure. American intelligence intercepted lower-level Syrian military commanders’ communications discussing the chemical attack, but the communications don’t specifically link the attack to an official senior enough to tie the killings to Assad himself, according to three US intelligence officials.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the intelligence publicly.
The administration was planning an intelligence teleconference briefing on Thursday on Syria for leaders of the House and Senate and the national security committees in Congress, US officials and congressional aides said. Officials also said an unclassified version of the report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence would be made public this week.
The White House ideally wants intelligence that links the attack directly to Assad or someone in his inner circle, to rule out the possibility that a rogue element of the military decided to use chemical weapons without Assad’s authorisation.
That quest for added intelligence has delayed the release of the report laying out evidence against Assad. The report was promised earlier this week by administration officials.
The CIA and the Pentagon have been working to gather more human intelligence tying Assad to the attack, relying on the intelligence services of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the officials said.
Both the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency have their own human sources – the rebel commanders and others who cross the border to brief CIA and defence intelligence officers at training camps in Jordan and Turkey. But their operation is much smaller than some of the other intelligence services, and it takes longer for their contacts to make their way overland.
Britain added a hurdle to deliberations about a military strike on Wednesday when it went to the UN Security Council with a draft resolution that would authorise the use of military force against Syria. The British resolution would authorise “all necessary measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to protect civilians from chemical weapons.” Chapter 7 allows the use of international armed force to back up UN decisions.
As expected, the five permanent members of the Security Council failed to reach an agreement as Russia reiterated its objections to international intervention in the Syrian crisis. Russia, along with China, has blocked past attempts to sanction the Assad government.
Obama said he was not seeking a lengthy, open-ended conflict in Syria, indicating that any US response would be limited in scope.