News / Middle East

    Assad Thinks US Strikes Still Possible

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus, Sept. 19, 2013.
    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus, Sept. 19, 2013.
    VOA News
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not ruling out the possibility of a United States military strike on his country despite agreeing to a deal requiring him to give up his chemical weapons.

    Speaking to Venezuela's Telesur television, President Assad said his government remains committed to the deal negotiated by the U.S. and Russia, which is in the final stages of being formalized by the United Nations Security Council.

    Assad said he sees "no serious obstacles" to the plan, but warned that terrorists, a phrase he uses to describe rebels, could try to prevent U.N. experts tasked with securing the government's chemical weapons stockpile from doing their job.

    The deal emerged after the U.S. threatened airstrikes to punish his government for a poison gas attack last month on a rebel-held area that killed hundreds. Assad denies carrying out the attack.

    The U.S. delayed the airstrikes after Assad agreed to the deal, but the Syrian leader told Telesur that the possibility of what he called U.S. "aggression" was always there, whether the "pretext" was chemical weapons or "something else."

    His comments, which aired late on Wednesday, came as U.N. chemical weapons inspectors returned to Syria to investigate multiple incidents where chemical weapons were allegedly used.

    The team of experts, led by Swedish chief Ake Sellstrom, has already determined that the deadly nerve agent sarin was used in the August 21 attack near Damascus. The investigators' mandate does not include assigning blame for any of the attacks.

    Meanwhile, in New York, diplomats are continuing to work on a U.N. Security Council draft resolution that would enforce the U.S.-Russian chemical weapons deal.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, but failed to agree on the key points of the document. The U.S. and Russian ambassadors to the U.N. are tasked with working out the final language.

    Russia opposes a resolution that mentions Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which includes the use of military and non-military action to enforce decisions.

    Russia has long opposed the idea of military intervention, and has vetoed three attempts to sanction Syria at the U.N. Security Council.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday the resolution could mention the Chapter VII article that permits force or sanctions only if the U.S.-Russia chemical weapons accord is violated by either side in the Syrian conflict.

    Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Syria 

    • A Free Syrian Army fighter watches after setting tires and other objects on fire to provide cover from snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's Salaheddine district, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to fire a homemade rocket in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • This image taken from video from the Sham News Network shows Syrian opposition fighters firing at government forces near Daraa, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • Smoke rises from buildings after an airstrike hit in Habit village, Hama, Syria, Sep. 25, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters visit the grave of their comrade who was killed in a recent attack, in a cemetery in Duma neighborhood in Damascus, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • Civilians walk as smoke rises behind a mosque after what activists say was shelling from the Syrian regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district, Sept. 23, 2013.
    • Boys walk on the rubble of damaged buildings in Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Sept. 23, 2013.
    • Aisha Masri helps a wounded man at Karaj al-Hajez crossing, a passage way separating Aleppo's rebel-controlled and regime-controlled neighborhoods, Sept. 23, 2013.
    • A Syrian man with more than half his body burnt from an air strike leaves a field hospital to go back home at a village turned into a battlefield with government forces in Idlib province, Sept. 22, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army members prepare food for their fellow fighters in a kitchen located near the frontline in the al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 22, 2013.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora