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US Senate Panel Approves Plan for Syria Strike

Senate Foreign Relations Committee members, from left, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jeff Flake, and Sen. Ron Johnson listen on Capitol Hill, Sept. 4, 2013, during the committee's hearing to consider the authorization for use of military force in Syria.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee members, from left, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jeff Flake, and Sen. Ron Johnson listen on Capitol Hill, Sept. 4, 2013, during the committee's hearing to consider the authorization for use of military force in Syria.
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a resolution giving U.S. President Barack Obama authority to take military action against Syria over its use of chemical weapons on civilians.

The measure will go to the full Senate next week, and must pass there, as well as in the House of Representatives, where it could meet stiff resistance from Republican Party lawmakers.

The 10-7 committee vote came Wednesday as Obama's top foreign policy and defense advisers testified for a second day in Congress, trying to persuade doubtful lawmakers to approve the president's plan for a strike against Syria's military capabilities.

Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, testifies on Capitol Hill, Sept. 4, 2013, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, testifies on Capitol Hill, Sept. 4, 2013, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, testifies on Capitol Hill, Sept. 4, 2013, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, testifies on Capitol Hill, Sept. 4, 2013, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Secretary of State John Kerry spent much of the afternoon speaking to a House of Representatives committee.

"As we debate, the world is watching and the world is wondering, not whether Assad's regime actually did this," Kerry said.  "The world is wondering whether the United States of America is going to consent through silence to stand aside while this kind of brutality is allowed to happen without consequence."

The Senate committee approved a plan that would give Obama authority to order limited strikes against Syrian military targets for 60 days.  He could extend the window by another 30 days under certain conditions.

The resolution does not authorize the use of ground troops.  It states military action must be aimed at deterring and preventing Syria from carrying out future chemical weapons attacks.

Obama says he is convinced that President Assad's government used chemical weapons on civilians in the attack on August 21, which killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus.  

Syria denies using chemical weapons, alleging it was the rebels who deployed them.

Congressional leaders have expressed support for action against Syria, but others in Congress remain wary of approving military force, as do most Americans, polls show.

Skeptical Europe

In Sweden Wednesday, Obama carried his case for action to the world. He said a failure to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Damascus would only increase the chance they would be used again.

President Barack Obama gestures during his joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sept. 4, 2013, at the Rosenbad Building in Stockholm, Sweden.President Barack Obama gestures during his joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sept. 4, 2013, at the Rosenbad Building in Stockholm, Sweden.
President Barack Obama gestures during his joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sept. 4, 2013, at the Rosenbad Building in Stockholm, Sweden.
President Barack Obama gestures during his joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sept. 4, 2013, at the Rosenbad Building in Stockholm, Sweden.
Obama said the world had long ago determined that using chemical weapons could not be tolerated. Thus, he said, his own credibility is not at stake if there is no action against Syrian President Assad.   

“The international community's credibility is on the line,'' he said. “And America and Congress' credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.”

The president acknowledged that many Europeans are hesitant to act militarily against Syria because of the incorrect allegations of chemical weapons that led to the war in Iraq.

“I’m not interested in repeating mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty intelligence, but having done a thorough evaluation of the information that is currently available, I can say with high confidence chemical weapons were used,” he said.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Obama is visiting Sweden on his way to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is expected to continue to argue there for a military response to the chemical weapons attacks.

The Russian government is expected to resist that push. Moscow is one of Syria’s main allies and has resisted international efforts to push for a political solution to Syria’s civil war.

Putin's warning

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he "doesn't exclude" supporting a U.N. authorization of military force against Syria if there is proof the government there used chemical weapons.

But he warned the U.S. against taking action without U.N. approval.

"Only the U.N. Security Council could sanction the use of force against a sovereign state," Putin told the Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television network. "Any other pretext or method which might be used to justify the use of force against an independent sovereign state is inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression."

Putin urged the U.S. to present "convincing" evidence about chemical weapons to the United Nations.

He said Russia has suspended the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missile components to Syria, but would reconsider if steps are taken that "violate international norms."

U.N. urges political solution

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said any use of chemical weapons in Syria is an “outrageous war crime,” and he called on the Security Council to “unite and develop an appropriate response” to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, he said a political solution to the crisis in accordance with the U.N. Charter is the best way to proceed.  

U.N. experts are trying to determine whether chemical weapons were used in neighborhoods near Damascus, but there is no word yet when their report will be complete.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees on Wednesday met with officials from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, to call for more international aid for the two million Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war. The vast majority of them have crossed into Syria’s neighboring countries in the past 12 months, and the U.N. expects the numbers to continue to rise.

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by: Eric from: USA
September 04, 2013 11:44 AM
Sure, the hegemony and credibility lies with the CIA whom funds, trains, and arms Al Qaeda! ALL ON RECORD!!!

by: Penny from: Lane City, OK
September 04, 2013 11:39 AM
The proposed AUMF focuses on Syrian WMD but is otherwise very broad. It authorizes the President to use any element of the U.S. Armed Forces and any method of force. It does not contain specific limits on targets – either in terms of the identity of the targets (e.g. the Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Hezbollah, Iran) or the geography of the targets. Its main limit comes on the purposes for which force can be used. Four points are worth making about these purposes. First, the proposed AUMF authorizes the President to use force “in connection with” the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war. (It does not limit the President’s use force to the territory of Syria, but rather says that the use of force must have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian conflict.

Activities outside Syria can and certainly do have a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war.). Second, the use of force must be designed to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of WMDs “within, to or from Syria” or (broader yet) to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.” Third, the proposed AUMF gives the President final interpretive authority to determine when these criteria are satisfied (“as he determines to be necessary and appropriate”). Fourth, the proposed AUMF contemplates no procedural restrictions on the President’s powers (such as a time limit).

by: Jojo from: South Africa
September 04, 2013 11:33 AM
Why has the little nation of Qatar spent 3 billion dollars to support the rebels in Syria?

Could it be because Qatar is the largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world and Assad won’t let them build a natural gas pipeline through Syria? Of course. Qatar wants to install a puppet regime in Syria that will allow them to build a pipeline which will enable them to sell lots and lots of natural gas to Europe. Why is Saudi Arabia spending huge amounts of money to help the rebels and why has Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan been “jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime”?

Well, it turns out that Saudi Arabia intends to install their own puppet government in Syria which will allow the Saudis to control the flow of energy through the region. On the other side, Russia very much prefers the Assad regime for a whole bunch of reasons. One of those reasons is that Assad is helping to block the flow of natural gas out of the Persian Gulf into Europe, thus ensuring higher profits for Gazprom. Now the United States is getting directly involved in the conflict. If the U.S. is successful in getting rid of the Assad regime, it will be good for either the Saudis or Qatar (and possibly for both), and it will be really bad for Russia. This is a strategic geopolitical conflict about natural resources, religion and money, and it really has nothing to do with chemical weapons at all.

by: Namea from: Va.
September 04, 2013 11:31 AM
So let the sunshine in. Perhaps the unruly backbenchers on Capitol Hill will now learn that they have been sold-out by their betters on the jurisdictional committees, such as knee-jerk hawks like Senators Feinstein and Mendez, who chair the key Senate committees, and Mike Rogers who chairs the House (alleged) Intelligence Committee. If they do, they will understand that the US has no dog in the Middle East hunt, and that the wise course of action would be a thorough-going retreat and disengagement from the internecine conflicts of the Levant, North Africa and the Persian Gulf, just as Ronald Reagan discovered after his nose was bloodied in Lebanon. But however the current debate specifically unfolds, the good news is that the world greatest deliberative body is now back in charge of American foreign policy. By long standing historical demonstration, the US Congress specializes in paralysis, indecision and dysfunction. In the end, that is how the American warfare state will be finally brought to heel and why the American Imperium will come to an end—at last.

by: Leo from: UK
September 04, 2013 11:30 AM
Needless to say, the spineless Arab League/Saudi potentates who are now demanding “deterrence” never intend to do the job themselves, preferring to stealthily hold the coats of American mercenary forces instead. The truth is that at the end of the day, they find the threat of Iranian retaliation far more compelling than ending Assad’s brutality or building a pipeline through a prospective Sunni-controlled Syria to supply Qatar’s natural gas to European markets.

That leaves the need to dispatch the final and most insidious myth of the warfare state: namely, the lie that Iran is hell-bent on obtaining and using nuclear weapons. Even the CIA’s own intelligence estimates refute that hoary canard. And whatever the proper share of blame ascribable to each side for failed nuclear negotiations in the past, the Iranian people have once again freely elected a President who wishes to normalize relationships with the US and its allies—notwithstanding the cruel and mindless suffering visited upon them by the West’s misbegotten economic “sanctions”. Indeed, if Obama had the wisdom and astuteness President Eisenhower demonstrated going to Korea, he would be now headed for a peace conference table in Tehran, not the war room in the White House.

by: Heirlick from: Sweden
September 04, 2013 11:29 AM
In this context, Barrack Obama may yet earn his Nobel Peace prize, owing to the Syria debate he has now unleashed. It will finally show that there is no threat to America’s security lurking behind the curtain in the Middle East—only a cacophony of internal religious, ethnic, tribal and nationalist conflicts that will eventually burn themselves out. Rather than the “new caliphate” of Fox News’ demented imagination, the truth on the ground is that the Islamic world is enmeshed in a vicious conflict pitting the Shia axis of Iran, Syria, Southern Iraq and the Hezbollah-Lebanon corridor against the surrounding Sunni circle which is nominally aligned with the Syrian rebels. Yet even the Sunni world is noisily fracturing, with Turkey and Qatar lined-up with the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf State aligned with the Egyptian generals. Meanwhile, Jordan cowers in the shadows.

The cowardly hypocrisy of the Arab League should tell the Congressional rank-and-file all they need to know about why we should stay out of Syria and shutdown the CIA-sponsored rebel training camp in Jordan through which Saudi arms, including chemical weapons according to some reports, are being interjected into the slaughter in Syria. If the Assad regime is truly an existential threat to regional peace and stability, let Saudi Arabia and Turkey take it out. After all, during the last several decades they have received a combined $100 billion in advanced aircraft, missiles, electronic warfare gear and other weaponry from American arms merchants financed by the US government.

by: Jimekap from: Oslo
September 04, 2013 11:28 AM
But it is the backbone of the permanent warfare state bureaucracy that keeps the gambit going. Presidents come and go but it is now obvious that virtually any ideological script—left or right—can be coopted into service of the Imperium. The Obama White House’s preposterous drive to intervene in the Syrian tinderbox with its inherent potential for fractures and blowback across the entire Middle East is being ram-roded by the dogma of “responsibility to protect”. In that context, its chief protagonists—Susan Rice and Samantha Power—-are the moral equivalent of Bush’s neo-con hit-men, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz. In both cases, ideological agendas which have absolutely nothing to do with the safety of the American people were enabled to activate the awful violence of the American war machine mainly because it was there, marching in place waiting for an assignment.

And that truth encapsulates the inflection point now upon us. There should be no $650 billion war machine with carrier battle groups and cruise missile batteries at the ready to tempt Presidents to heed the advice of ideological fanatics like Power and Wolfowitz. The cold war ended 25 years back, and like in 1919 and 1946 the American war machine should have been drastically demobilized and dismantled long ago; it should be funded at under $300 billion, not over $600 billion. The five destroyers today menacing the coast of Syria should have been mothballed, if not consigned to the scrap yard. No President need have worried about choosing sides among ethnic cleansers in Kosovo or Islamic sectarians and tribalists in Syria because his available tool-kit would have been to call for a peace conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, not a Tomahawk strike from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.

by: Terry from: Hilton Head
September 04, 2013 11:27 AM
Likewise, the “triumph” of Kosovo is pure gist from the national security propaganda mill. The true essence of the episode was a mere swap-out among the ethnic cleansers: The brutal Serbian army was expelled from Kosovo so that the Albanian thugs of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army which was on the terrorist list until it was mysteriously dropped in 1998) could liquidate minority Serbs and confiscate their property—–a tragic routine that has been going on in the Balkans for centuries.

The recurrent phony narratives that generate these war drum campaigns and then rationalize their disastrous aftermath are rooted in a common structural cause: a vastly bloated war machine and national spying apparatus, the Imperial Presidency and the house-trained lap-dogs which occupy the congressional intelligence, foreign affairs and defense committees. This triangle of deception keeps the American public bamboozled with superficial propaganda and the media supplied with short bursts of reality TV when the Tomahawks are periodically let fly.

by: Butch from: USA
September 04, 2013 11:26 AM
Setting aside the self-evident catastrophes in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, even the alleged “good” interventions are simply not what they are cracked-up to be by warfare state apologists. The 1991 Persian Gulf War, for instance, only insured that Saddam Hussein would not get the oilfield revenues from what he claimed to be Iraq’s “19th province” so that he could fund projects to placate his 30 million deprived, abused and restless citizens. Instead, the loot was retained for the benefit of the despicable Emir Al- Sabah IV and a few hundred gluttonous Kuwaiti princes.

Yet in the long-run, “saving” the Kuwaiti regime and its unspeakably decadent opulence did not lower the world price of oil by a dime (Iraq would have produced every barrel it could). And it most surely subtracted from national security because it resulted in the permanent basing of 10,000 U.S. troops on Saudi soil. This utterly stupid and unnecessary provocation was the very proof that “infidels” were occupying Islamic holy lands—the principal leitmotif used by Osama Bin Laden to recruit a few hundred fanatical jihadists and pull off the flukish scheme that became 9/11.

by: Janet R. from: San Fran
September 04, 2013 11:25 AM
The screaming strategic truth is that America no longer has any industrial state enemies capable of delivering military harm to its shores: Russia has become a feeble kleptocracy run by a loud-mouthed thief and the communist party oligarchs in China would face a devastating economic collapse within months were it to attack its American markets for sneakers and Apples. So the real question now before Congress recurs: how is it possible that the peace-loving citizens of America, facing no industrial-scale military threat from anywhere on the planet, find themselves in a constant state of war? The answer is that they have been betrayed by the beltway political class which is in thrall to a vast warfare state apparatus that endlessly invents specious reasons for meddling, spying, intervention and occupation.

In pursuit of nothing more ennobling than raw self-perpetuation, the propaganda machinery of the warfare state—along with its media affiliates such as the War Channel (CNN) and the War Press (Washington Post) —- have over recent decades churned out a stream of vastly exaggerated “threats”, falsely transforming tin-pot dictators and tyrants like Ho Chi Minh, Daniel Ortega, Slobodan Milosevic, the Taliban, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein and now Bashar Assad into dangerous enemies. At length, triggering incidents are concocted such as the phony gulf of Tonkin episode, the Madison Avenue based fabrications about Iraqi soldiers stealing babies from incubators in Kuwait, the vastly exaggerated claims of ethnic cleaning in Kosovo, and Saddam’s reputed WMDs. Eventually, the drumbeat for military intervention is cranked to a fever pitch, and cable TV drives it home with non-stop telestrators and talking heads. Only after the fact, when billions in taxpayer resources have been squandered and thousands of American servicemen have been killed and maimed, do we learn that it was all a mistake; that the collateral destruction vastly exceeded the ostensible threat; and that there remains not a trace of long-term security benefit to the American people.
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