News / USA

White House Syria Appeal Draws Protest, Prayer

Lebanese, Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace Syria, in Harisa, Lebanon, Sept. 7, 2013.
Lebanese, Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace Syria, in Harisa, Lebanon, Sept. 7, 2013.
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Pamela Dockins
President Barack Obama and senior officials of his administration are trying hard to broaden domestic and foreign support for a limited military action in Syria, but so far that effort has produced mixed results.
 
The president spoke to the American people directly Saturday in his weekly address, explaining why he feels it is necessary for the United States to take military action against the Syrian government's alleged chemical weapons attack in August, and asking for support.
 
Indirectly acknowledging public-opinion surveys that show many ordinary Americans strongly oppose U.S. military action in Syria, Obama said he can understand the public's war-weariness. He pledged that no members of the U.S. military would be sent into Syria under his plan, and put the issue in moral terms:
 
"We are the United States of America," he said. "We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we have seen out of Syria."
 
The president also said a failure to act now could damage U.S. national security. Standing by instead of taking action would increase the risk, he said, "that chemical weapons could be used again; that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons."
 
Anti-war protesters were outside the White House Saturday, shouting “Obama, hands off Syria!"

Watch President Obama's weekly address:


President Obama is preparing a televised address to the nation on Syria late Tuesday, and White House officials say he is planning a marathon round of interviews with at least six television networks on Monday, all slated for evening broadcast.
 
G20 leadership split
 
The president has just returned home from the Group of 20 economic summit in Russia, where the crisis in Syria dominated many of the national leaders' private discussions. Russian President Vladimir Putin remains strongly opposed to any Western raid against Syria, in part because he contends any illegal chemical weapons used against civilians in Syria were triggered by rebels, not by government forces supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

Story continues below video, 'World Powers Split Over US Plan':
World Powers Split Over US Plan to Punish Syriai
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September 07, 2013
The Group of 20 split down the middle Friday on the question of supporting the United States in punishing Syria’s government for apparently gassing civilians two weeks ago in Damascus. VOA's James Brooke reports that as the G-20 meeting ended in St. Petersburg, the White House released a statement endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama and 10 other world leaders.

Putin claims a majority of national leaders at the St. Petersburg summit agreed with him, but the United States issued a statement co-signed by 10 nations calling for a "strong international response" to the attack on Syria.
 
The statement did not specify what that response should be.

Pope leads peace prayers
 
Earlier in the week, Pope Francis wrote to leaders of the G20 summit, urging them to abandon pursuit of a military solution in Syria.
 
Answering a call by Pope Francis, Christians in many parts of the world prayed for peace in Syria Saturday. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, addressing tens of thousands of people at the Vatican, said "war always marks the failure of peace" and is a "defeat for humanity." He asked the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray for peace and reconciliation in Syria and throughout the world.
 
Syrian Christians gathered at their cathedral in Damascus, where an archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox patriarchate said followers of all religious doctrines were, on this day, "all of one heart — all the Syrians — in the churches and mosques of our different doctrines," for peace.
 
Kerry campaigns for EU support
 
The American Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, visited Lithuania and France Saturday on a mission to broaden European support for an attack.
 
In Vilnius, where European foreign ministers met, Kerry heard the European Union's foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, call for a "clear and strong response" to the Syrian chemical-weapons attack, but under the auspices of the United Nations.
 
Kerry later appeared in Paris together with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The top American diplomat, who has been one of the most outspoken members of Obama's inner circle in calling for action against Syria, acknowledged some European countries remain reluctant to back military action, but he added there is overwhelming support for holding the Syrian regime accountable for its purported use of chemical weapons.
 
"This is growing, not receding, in terms of the global sense of outrage of what’s happened,” he said.
 
Some nations have expressed a desire to wait until a report by a U.N. chemical weapons team that visited the site of the alleged attack to collect evidence. French President Francois Hollande said the U.N. team is expected to present its report by the end of next week.
 
Experts debate strike
 
Jeffrey Mankoff, an expert on Russia and Eurasia from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, appeared on VOA's weekly program Encounter, where he expressed skepticism about prospects for a U.S. strike against Syria.
 
"It is clear that the United States has very little international support in seeking to carry this out," Mankoff said.
 
Analyst Mark Jacobson of the German Marshall Fund policy group, also on Encounter, disagreed.
 
"I personally think that the United States has no choice but to respond militarily," he said.
 
Jacobson said the U.S. has an obligation to enforce norms against poisoning civilians and a use of chemical weapons.
 
Congressional vote
 
In additional to President Obama's speeches and appearances in the coming days, members of his administration have been intensively lobbying members of the House of Representatives and Senate, who are expected to vote sometime after Tuesday on resolutions authorizing the president to take action against Syria.
 
A key Senate panel voted on Wednesday in favor of action.
 
U.S. officials say they have evidence that more than 1,400 people were killed by poison gas in an attack on August 21 in areas on the fringe of Damascus populated by supporters of the opposition.

VOA White House Correspondent Kent Klein contributed to this report. Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
September 07, 2013 11:31 PM
I don't care much prayer your pray, We have a job to do here and we must do it. Assad has crossed the red line, and he must pay the price. this man has crossed the international rules and regulations concerning chemical weapons and he should held accountable for his action. We as a people cannot sit there and allow this to happen to the kids of Syria, Mr. Putin and those who opposed military action in Syria, My question to you is where are your conscious? we need to stop these people before it gets to late, cuz they will use it on America and Israel, you mark my word on this date 09/07/13, The problem with Mr. Putin is this he was a kid and he saw America defeated Russia in the cold war, so he has animosity against America. Even the Bush administration, it was the same thing, Mr. Putin opposed President Bush. whether the world likes it or not America is the only empire to reign until Jesus comes. And we will reign supreme. God Bless America, God Bless President Obama


by: Chuck Shaw from: West Covina, CA
September 07, 2013 8:24 PM
Has the credibility of the United States government been damaged? Actually, the loss of credibility of a nation is due to the actions of an unpopular policy or lack of or by actions of an individual or leader of the nation in question. To that point, The Obama administration is asking Americans to buy into an uncertain plan of action that could have serious unintended circumstances, all to “strengthen our nation’s credibility”. However, it is obvious that Obama’s credibility is in question here. Why should this nation be obligated to undertake such a precarious task just because the President mistakenly drew a red line in the sand? It is right to take a stand calling the use of chemical weapons an immoral and heinous act. Americans and the international community agree with the president on that point. The disparity lays in the fact that Obama’s call for a military strike against Syria is not an acceptable or a logical solution. It would seem that Obama has positioned himself as an international judge, jury and executioner. Considering the strong coalition, building in Europe to wait for the UN report and the likelihood that congress will not back the president, one must wonder what and who is really behind this completely zany effort that Obama continues to pursue. During the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran, Saddam Hussein indiscriminately used deadly chemical agents to kill hundreds of Iranian soldiers. He also used these weapons on his own people, the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Where was the outcry back then?




by: John from: Charlotte, NC
September 07, 2013 8:20 PM
Earlier today, John Kerry, the Secretary of State, said that this is our "Munich Moment" -- just to remind everyone, the "Munich Moment" before WWII, was when France and Great Britain sold Czechoslovakia down the river, doomed Poland in the bargain and essentially made WWII a certainty. Well, with what little respect I can muster for Kerry, I would say that a better metaphor is "The Guns of August" -- the series of blunders by incompetent European monarchs that led to WWI -- because as far as I can see it, we have a bunch of incompetent politicos, Kerry, Obama, etc., blundering their way into WWIII.


by: Scott from: USA
September 07, 2013 8:13 PM
I believe more of what coming out of the rear end of a horse then what is coming out of Obama mouth


by: Steven Dobrowolski
September 07, 2013 7:59 PM
Who the heck is he talking to in his lies? Boots will hit the ground, as iran, and syrias allies will ironically not allow people that kill Americans to control there country.

Go President go. Support the wrong people because of cheap oil from the Saudis. You should be charged at the hague.


by: carlos lascoutx from: mexico
September 07, 2013 7:51 PM
...if we bomb Syria we'll have to bomb Iran. rather than enter
that chain of events, let's subject Assad to the rule of Law
through the UN and the Hague. no more loss of life and pelf.
Iran will know what to expect. China will think of us as reasonable,
and Putin that Alpha dog can look at us with adoring eyes.


by: Eduardo from: albuquerque
September 07, 2013 6:50 PM
Putin and China are supporting Syria because they are both dictatorships and are likely to use chemical weapons on their own people so they are no different than and support Assad.

In Response

by: Anonymous
September 08, 2013 12:24 AM
Russia already has, the theatre in Moscow crisis. 40 of the attackers were killed by Russian forces, and about 130 hostages died due to adverse reactions to the gas (including nine foreigners) dispensed by they lawful authorities.

In Response

by: Artie from: California
September 07, 2013 8:15 PM
Putin and China are against military strike of Syria along with majority of the US public and rest of the sane world. Obama is no better than Putin, going against will of its people and illegally collecting information on all of the citizens, forcing Obamacare on everyone, saying that he'll bomb even if Congress votes no on Syria. Forgot about Snowden? Please tell me how different is he from any other dictator?


by: rowlandx from: Cape Cod
September 07, 2013 3:57 PM
As long as it is an "alleged" chemical weapons attack, we should vote no about bombing Syria. We will probably never know who actually used the poison gas, so it will always be "alleged." Obama praised Martin Luther King's life all last week. This week, he's trying to do what MLK would never, ever do: harm innocent people.

In Response

by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet- Africa
September 08, 2013 6:40 AM
Anonymous, please consider also that lives would have been saved long before now if the US never backed the rebels. Those who joined the rebels have been eating and dinning with Assad all these years, if they love Syria as they claim today, why didn't they plot Assad's removal since then and bear the consequences? Those defectors who thought the Syria issue would be like that of Ghadaffi had very wrong calculations. They would also be banned from governance just as it has been implemented in Libya. US support for rebellion has done more harm than good... . Check your references! Here comes the reality of the US foreign poilicing of bullying!

In Response

by: Anonymous
September 08, 2013 12:26 AM
@Steven you are so wrong and uneducated in the matter. In fact there are reports assads troops have started doing this, running like rats, hiding their deadly weapons in civilian populated places as protection of their weapons against the wes.

In Response

by: Steven Dobrowolski
September 07, 2013 8:04 PM
@anonymous.

If the rebels..... would stop hiding in schools as they did in Iraq, while shooting americans, this war would have been over long ago. They hide with the residents forcing them to stay. so don't talk about things that you don't know. Stick your head back in the sand and shut up.

In Response

by: Anonymous
September 07, 2013 5:22 PM
Assad has been using conventional bombing first as a crime against humanity. He crossed the red line long ago.He has bombed civilian areas for 2.5 yrs killing more civilians than any terrorist orgranization in the middle east. It is for that reason that I feel the Syrian Army should be disabled. Many SAA have been defecting to the FSA since 2,5 yrs ago, it is how it was formed. They refused to take part in bashar al assads orders to kill civilians and destroy the Nation of Syria. If this is what it takes to disable assad from killing the people of Syria, that's great. As long as they go after prime targets assad is using against his people, minimum casulties should result. It would actually save lives.


by: ali baba from: new york
September 07, 2013 3:06 PM
if the congress disapprove us attacking Syria, the story end. It looks that Obama obsesses with the idea and keep lobbying all congress man and woman. did he know those benefit from attack is radical Islam. did you know that radical Islam are responsible for the most attack that many killed. terrorist organization want another safe heaven place to plan and train the mentally brain washed mentally ill to execute future attack. please use a common sense and stop that nonsense


by: AndrewDouglas from: New York
September 07, 2013 11:06 AM
Personally, I would tend to support the president in foreign affairs. But Obama's ambivalence is very unsettling.
He needs to show his own commitment before counting on mine.

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