News / Middle East

    Assad Denies Link to Chemical Attack

    VOA News
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he is fully committed to disposing his chemical arsenal, but denies his forces launched a poison gas attack last month that killed hundreds near Damascus.

    In an interview with the U.S. network Fox News broadcast Thursday, Assad promised to abide by a U.S.-Russia deal aimed at destroying the chemical stockpiles. But he described the situation as "complicated," saying destruction of the weapons would cost about $1 billion and would take a year or "maybe a little more."

    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his country currently has no plans to destroy Syria's chemical weapons on its own territory, although he acknowledged it has the facilities to do so.

    Russia and the United States are the only countries with industrial scale capacity to handle mustard, VX, sarin or cyanide-armed munitions, but the import of chemical weapons is banned under U.S. law.

    The disarmament plan, which is still being debated by U.N. Security Council envoys, requires Syria's government to turn over details of its chemical weapons by Saturday.  Assad said he is willing to do this "tomorrow" and can provide experts access to the sites where the weapons are stored.

    New war

    Assad also insisted his government is waging a "new kind of war" against an infiltration of Islamist fighters from more than 80 countries. While he acknowledged the two-year uprising against him initially included non-extremists, he said that by the end of 2012 they had become the majority. He said "80 to 90 percent now consist of al-Qaida and their offshoots."

    The Syrian leader slammed a U.N. report issued this week that confirms sarin nerve gas was used in an attack against civilians in the rebel-held suburb of Ghouta on August 21.

    Although the report did not assign blame, the U.S. and other Western nations said it strongly suggested that government forces, not rebels, were responsible for the attack.

    Assad slams UN report

    President Assad called the findings "unrealistic," expressing doubt about the authenticity of the large amounts of photos and videos purporting to show the aftermath of the attack. He said it is possible rebel forces had access to the sarin gas, a claim his government has repeatedly made.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said evidence gathered by U.N. investigators on the ground and released Monday "indisputably" and "overwhelmingly" confirms the use of the nerve agent sarin on a relatively large scale in the attack on Ghouta.

    The U.S. says the attack killed 1,400 people.

    Meanwhile, a roadside bomb struck a bus in the central province of Homs Thursday, killing at least 14 members of Assad's minority Alawite sect.



    • This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network shows anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil, Idlib province, Sept. 20, 2013.
    • Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Sept. 19, 2013.
    • Debris is seen on the ground after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
    • An injured man walks along a street after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad shows a Syrian military tank on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 18, 2013.
    • A member of the Shohadaa Badr Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, stands in shooting position behind sandbags in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, September 17, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters walk through rubble inside the old city of Aleppo, Sept. 16, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he stands on rubble of damaged buildings in al-Aseela neighborhood near Aleppo's historic citadel, Sept. 13, 2013.
    • In this citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen, a Syrian protester chants slogans during a demonstration in Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 13, 2013.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 19, 2013 2:08 PM
    So that’s what the delay amounts to, a denial? Well, Russia betrayed this position when it began to accuse the rebels, to the extent of claiming they exploded the gas prematurely. Now that is out of the way, seems Assad is more conscientious than Putin in not trying to allege what is untenable, though as an afterthought he said the rebels may have had access to the sarin gas, without further details, unlike Russia that is ready to present unavailable evidence. That apart, Assad is indirectly asking the US or whoever might be interested, to provide one billion dollars to destroy the weapons. In other words, Assad wants some over zealous interest group to share the punishment due to him for the error of gassing his own people. On the other hand, it may be a diplomatic maneuvering aimed at buying more time to destroy the weapons which might end up not binding or not carried out at the long run. Saying yes I will do it and at the same time bringing in the idea of duration (1yr+), asking for financial aid which surely Iran, China or Russia can provide for it, and Russia refusing to allow the operation to be carried out its territory knowing well that the US has a legislation against the importation of same into the country is a well manicured diplomatic engineering – a good subterfuge to bamboozle an expectant world. However, it is not the diplomatic maneuvering that is the focus here, it is the diplomatic suicide that Russia has invariably shot itself into. It shows Russia and/or its leaders as chronic, accomplished and blatant liars.

    by: INSIDER from: D.C.
    September 19, 2013 1:25 PM
    So who are you going to believe? Is it a senile blathering Senator who claims to “know” all the Syrian rebels after visiting the country once, or a group of respected Terrorism and Insurgency experts who have spent months studying the complexity of the situation?
    The Washington Examiner reported this week that President Barack Obama has waived a portion of federal law prohibiting military assistance to terrorist groups, opening a path to transfer sophisticated weaponry to radical elements of the Syrian opposition.
    What’s more, Lister notes that “groups on the more extreme end of the spectrum, particularly those affiliated with al-Qaeda, have proven remarkably adept at spreading their military resources across large swathes of territory, joining battles at the pivotal moment, and exploiting their superior organizational structures to establish political control and influence over territory.”

    by: Senile McCain from: D.C.
    September 19, 2013 1:22 PM
    Senile Senator John McCain, who has for months been demanding that Syrian rebels be armed by the US, says a study claiming up to 40 percent of the rebels are extremists is “not true” because he has personally met them.
    Don’t attempt to look for any logic in McCain’s blathering, because there isn’t any.
    The study, released in the week by by defense consultancy IHS Jane’s found that “the insurgency is now dominated by groups with at least an Islamist viewpoint of the conflict.”
    “The idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out.” said Charles Lister, author of the study.
    Speaking to an audience at The Council On Foreign Relations, McCain stated “Not true, not true!”

    by: INSIDER from: USA
    September 19, 2013 12:38 PM
    This is what the Pentagon now calls Military Information Support Operations, or MISO. This is a far less sinister name for what the rest of us call Psychological Operations, or Psyops. that subtle form of warfare that uses carefully tailored information – truthful or not – to change foreign hearts and minds in a way that furthers U.S. interests.

    “MISO units have the mission to broadcast information and messages to neutral, hostile and, in certain cases, friendly audiences,” says Bryan Karabaich, a former Special Forces colonel and a consultant to the U.S. government on information operations. “Obviously, to do that, one needs to know where on the broadcast spectrum people are listening and what is being said.”

    Currently, U.S. special operations forces (SOF) use a Flyaway Broadcast System (FABS), according to SOCOM spokeswoman Lt. Comm. Ligia Cohen (an example of FABS gear for natural disasters is here). However, FABS can only broadcast on a single frequency. “Historically, one got a receiver that operated on the desired spectrum and worked through the channels. An operator would note time, signal strength and perhaps content, then move on,” Karabaich notes. “If it seemed important, another operator with another set would go directly to the frequency and monitor. If there were multiple frequencies in use, one needed multiple sets. Then scanners came along and things speeded up. However, one still needed multiple sets to go back to exploit the hits. One problem was that as the scanner progressed, it wasn’t listening to other channels. Should someone come up and broadcast after the scanner passed by, it could be several seconds or longer before it came back.”

    by: Insider from: USA
    September 19, 2013 12:36 PM
    If you want to take over a nation, then first take over its airwaves. Broadcast your messages and interdict the enemy’s ability to broadcast theirs. When the U.S. attacked Iraq in 1991, or NATO bombed Serbia in 1999, among the first targets destroyed were TV and radio stations. When there is a military coup in Africa, the first buildings the rebels usually grab are the radio and TV studios.

    So it is illuminating that the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), the organization that oversees America’s elite special forces, is quietly searching for equipment that will effectively give it control over every FM and AM radio station in an area. The short, innocuous-sounding announcement on the Federal Business Opportunities site states that SOCOM seeks vendors to provide “a radio broadcast system capable of searching for and acquiring every AM and FM radio station in a specific area and then broadcasting a message(s) in the target area on all acquired AM and FM radio station frequencies.” SOCOM wants equipment that is both lightweight and sophisticated enough to detect and broadcast over multiple frequencies simultaneously. And SOCOM wants it fast. The equipment must be at least Technology Readiness Level 8, a Pentagon measure of technological maturity that means that it is fully developed, tested and ready for use.

    “It appears that SOCOM is looking to purchase a preferably commercial off the shelf friendly-foreign or domestic advanced form of Software-Defined Radio (SDR) as a solution for their tactical and theater Psyops or MISO missions,” says a military expert who asked to remain anonymous. “The exact platform – whether it’s ground-based or airborne – cannot be determined from the solicitation. It would appear to be an urgent request because of the TRL 8 or above stipulation. ”

    by: Tony Bellchambers from: London UK
    September 19, 2013 8:47 AM
    “Why Syria has 1000 tonnes of chemical WMD
    The elephant in the room, that determined Syria's adoption of a chemical weapons program in the 1980s as a deterrent against an Israeli nuclear attack, is a uniquely American animal. Ever since the assassination of John F Kennedy, successive US Presidents under pressure from the American Israel lobby, in Washington, have colluded in an extraordinary trick known as 'nuclear ambiguity' that has enabled Israel to covertly build the only undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal in the world.

    Estimates as to the size of this secret arsenal vary between 200 and 400 nuclear warheads and it is reported that Israel now has the capability to deliver its WMD by intermediate-range ballistic missile, ICBM, strike aircraft and also by cruise missiles from a fleet of nuclear-armed submarines. An offensive capability for a second strike that is unmatched by any European state, all of whom are signatories to both the NPT and the CWC.Israel is the only nuclear weapons state in the entire Middle East, Europe, Africa, Australasia, the United States and South America that has refused to be bound by these Agreements.

    Nuclear WMD are many times more lethal than chemical weapons as they can spread their deadly radiation over thousands of square miles and cross both national and international borders. This particular elephant, in the Syrian room, is an aggressive creature that Europe is increasingly unwilling to either feed or house.”
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 19, 2013 2:26 PM
    What are you saying in effect - that because Israel purportedly has nuclear arms, therefore Assad is justified to use his chemical weapons on his own people? You spoke bullshit here, because you have no iota of proof whatsoever that Israel has nuclear weapons program even if it has nuclear reactors for medical and power generation - which Iran tends to mimic. While Israel, your arch enemy, may have the best and most update military arsenal in all of Middle East, it has not used any of it on its citizens, nor has it threatened any country with it. Thank God you and other cannibals out there understand how God protests Israel, the knowledge of Israel's military power has been the terrible noise all of you out there hear and apply caution and deterrence to attack God's own people. If what you're saying justifies either Syria or the rest of islamist world using poison gas on your people, so be it. But please be civilized in you thinking - grow up. Your hatred for Israel is the trouble in the whole wide world.

    by: us from: us
    September 19, 2013 8:44 AM
    I am sure if you dig deep enough, you would discover that the US had something to do with it. It seems like the US just wants a continuous war--no matter what the cost. Kind of what they did in Iraq,Libya,Iran and so on and so on.

    by: Britney Whitney from: Las Vegas
    September 19, 2013 2:18 AM
    Wow.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.