News / Middle East

    Obama: Syria 'Atrocity' Must Have Response

    President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden as he makes a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013.
    President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden as he makes a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013.
    U.S. President Barack Obama has delayed an expected military strike against Syria, instead telling Americans he will seek congressional approval to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
     
    In a Saturday address at the White House, Obama said he has decided the United States should take military action against Syrian government targets, saying that while he holds authority to order a strike, he thinks it is important for the country to have a debate on the issue.
     
    The president ruled out any action that would put American ground troops in Syria, and called what happened in Damascus nearly two weeks ago the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century, adding that the U.S. must not turn a "blind eye" to it.
     
    Obama has said he has confidence in a report from the U.S. intelligence community that indicated the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad was responsible for the attack, referring to an unclassified document that directly blames the government for planning and carrying out the August 21 chemical attack that, the document says, killed at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.
     
    Calling the attack "an assault on human dignity," Obama said not responding risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and that he does not feel compelled to await the outcome of the U.N. probe.
     
    "I am comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable," he added.
     
    The Syrian government has denied having any role in chemical weapons attacks and threatened to retaliate and defend itself against any foreign military attack. Syrian allies expressed support for the Assad government.
     
    As he spoke in the White House Rose Garden, protesters outside the grounds chanted and waved signs to voice opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria.
     
    "We don’t think that the U.S. should be judge, jury and executioner in this situation, and that a U.S military intervention will not assist in bringing peace to the region, it will only further inflame war," said Eugene Puryear of the Answer Coalition, which is protesting any U.S. intervention in Syria. "So, regardless of the chemical weapons situation, we’re saying U.S. intervention is not the answer."
     
    Heba Boustany was with a group supporting Syrian rebels and calling for action.
     
    “We don’t exactly want intervention with bombs and missiles and everything, we just want someone to at least acknowledge that [President Bashar al-Assad] used chemical weapons and to say something about it and tell him ‘no more.’ Just make him scared to do anything more, because if you don’t say anything to him, he’s going to keep on using it.”
     
    Congress
     
    Later Saturday the president formally asked Congress to allow him to use military force in Syria to "deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade" the potential for more chemical attacks.
     
    Senior administration officials briefing reporters said the president's determination to respond to the chemical attack in Syria was generally set a week before, and that Obama wrestled with issues such as the role of Congress in authorizing use of military force, and the need to take into account the feelings of Americans weary of war.
     
    In his statement, Obama recognized the anti-war sentiment that follows the war in Iraq and coincides with a war winding down in Afghanistan, but said the U.S. has an obligation to act.
     
    Senior administration officials also said Obama was assured by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey that the precise timing of when a possible military strike in Syria would occur does not matter. On the likelihood Syrian targets will be hardened before any strike, the officials said the U.S. military has capabilities and options and is not concerned about this.
     
    In a White House meeting with advisers Friday night, senior administration officials said, there was robust debate about risks of any decision and the question of seeking congressional authorization.
     
    Senior national security officials held conference calls with Senate leaders on Saturday. On Sunday, the White House plans to hold a classified briefing on Syria for the House of Representatives.
     
    Republican leaders in the House say they are glad Obama is seeking authorization for any military action, and in a Saturday statement they said that under the U.S. constitution, "the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress."
     
    U.S. congressional leaders expect the House and Senate to take up the matter when they return from their summer recess the week of September 9.
     
    Obama said Congress would be voting for the national security of the United States.
     
    UN probe, world reaction
     
    A United Nations inspection team wrapped up its work in Syria and left the country Saturday. A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the U.N. chief will get a briefing on Sunday from the head of the inspection team. There is no word about when the team will present its full report. The U.N. spokesman said the team collected samples that will be analyzed in laboratories, as well as witness statements and interviews with doctors and survivors.
     
    Protesters around the world took to the streets on Saturday to protest for and against a possible U.S.-led attack on Syria. Anti-war demonstrations were held outside the White House and in other countries including France, Germany, Britain, Australia, Jordan and Turkey.
     
    Amnesty International issued a statement calling on the U.S. Security Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court, to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, and to deploy international monitors to investigate and report on human rights abuses in Syria.
     
    Some world leaders also expressed support for military action. British Prime Minister David Cameron sought but failed to get parliament's approval for Britain's participation in a strike on Syria, but he said he supports the U.S. president's decision not to let the Syrian government go unpunished for war crimes. 
     
    Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr expressed confidence that the Obama administration has carefully weighed an appropriate response.
     
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a volunteer coalition to stop the killings in Syria. In a televised speech Saturday, he also criticized Russia and China for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria.
     
    Also Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it is winning the war against "rebels."
     
    In a statement, Putin urged the U.S. to allow the U.N. chemical weapons team to present its findings.
     
    "As for the position of our American colleagues and friends who state that the government forces have used weapons of mass destruction, in this case used chemical weapons, and say that they have evidence — let them present them to the U.N. inspectors and the U.N. Security Council."
     
    An Iranian delegation visited Damascus Saturday to consult with the Syrian government, following a similar visit Friday by an official delegation from Yemen.
     
    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    September 01, 2013 8:18 PM
    I would like to ask how come US has right to punish other countires. How come US has an obligatgion to punish other countries? Punishment is a role of God, or US is a god? Does Obama forget US used pesticide in Vietnam war, atomic bombs in WWII? What kinds of difference excist between chemical weapons and pesticide and atomic bombs droped from war planes over civilians?

    It is skeptical US probe and intelligence have good reason to make everybody say "Yes, Syrian government, not rebels, used chemical weapons." It is time for American people to show your honest and modestiness before the God. Mr, Obana, wake up, you are not theGod, nor a judge and prosecuter at least in foreign affairs. Thank you.
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 02, 2013 2:10 PM
    The US has no right to do that, and the UN has mandate or army to carry out its function. The world is in the hands of the madmen in leadership positions. No one call for accountability and no one should account for anything. Welcome to a FREE world.

    by: us from: us
    September 01, 2013 10:42 AM
    So when do we get to see the proof behind the alleged nerve gas attacks? It is easy to say they were used, how did they collect the samples? Usually chemical analysis takes days to do, amazing how they got results instantly, makes you think it is all made up just to start another war and steal natural resources from yet another country.

    by: ali baba from: new york
    September 01, 2013 4:02 AM
    When we discussed about war crimes. we should not focus about crime done by one side and excuse the other side .the fact that both sides committed a war crime Bashar use chemical weapons. the other side is formed by different groups . it is include many Islamic terrorist organization such as Muslim brotherhood and Osama bin laden group. j understand that Us loves Muslim brotherhood and feel the pain when they kicked from Egypt. these groups committed serious war crime in Syria .they burnt churches .they kill women and children and force million to flee to neighboring countries. my questions Why united state is sympathize with this radical group . the radical group committed war crime and they go unpunished and Us work as a catalysis to punish Bashar to please the radical Muslim group !!!!!!!!!!!

    by: TonyBellchambers from: London
    August 31, 2013 11:43 PM
    The reason that death by chemical weapons is deemed unacceptable is because it offends the sensitivities of Cameron and Obama who are quite happy with killings that are perpetrated by gun, shell, bullet, missile, bomb or knife.

    It's OK for a cruise missile from a helicopter gunship or an F16 bomber or a military drone to vaporise a family or decapitate a child but killing with gas is a problem because we can see the exquisite pain and terrible suffering inflicted by our armed forces or the murderous militias of dictators.

    We and you can kill provided we cannot hear the screams of terror or feel the shocking agony of having our body torn in half and feeling the blood escape as death takes us and life is violently extinguished to satisfy the political aims of a jumped up two-star general in a suit sitting behind a desk with his finger on the button, his ears blocked with cotton wool to attenuate the screaming and a bottle of whisky to deaden the senses before dinner.

    No chemical weapons - they spoil the appetite for killing the usual way!

    by: Anonymous
    August 31, 2013 11:39 PM
    Absolutely Bashar al Assad should face any crimes he commited just like anyone else in the world. He isn't above the law. He can't murder men, women and children and get away with it. He caused genocide in Syria. He should be arrested and given to the Syrians to deal with him. Maybe put him in the same type of jail he has been putting opposition in. That should teach him a lesson. Keep him there for life.

    by: Shane from: USa
    August 31, 2013 9:17 PM
    American intelligence agencies had indications three days beforehand that the Syrian regime was poised to launch a lethal chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people and has set the stage for a possible U.S. military strike on Syria.

    The disclosure — part of a larger U.S. intelligence briefing on Syria’s chemical attacks — raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions for the American government. First and foremost: What, if anything, did it do to notify the Syrian opposition of the pending attack?

    In a call with reporters Friday afternoon, senior administration officials did not address whether this information was shared with rebel groups in advance of the attack. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the information had been shared.
    In Response

    by: ali baba from: new york
    September 01, 2013 4:07 AM
    what about the second side whom started civil war and they have connection with all terrorism organizations ?Are they good guys to feel sorry about them?

    by: Janet Birdplop from: Pennslyvania
    August 31, 2013 7:43 PM
    Update: I have heard from educated and aware friends that the presstitute media on the evening news are beating the drums for war. This shows what paid whores the US media is and their total disconnect from reality. Anyone who wastes their time on the US media is a brainwashed idiot, a danger to humanity.

    Update 8:52 PM August 30: Is the White House idiot going to be a victim of his own careless presidential appointments?

    Does he have no one to tell him how to escape the dilemma his moronic Secretary of State and National Security Advisor have put him in? Someone needs to tell the WH Fool that he must say that he accepts the conclusion of the world community that there is not sufficient evidence for launching a military attack on Syria and killing even more people than were killed in the alleged, but unproven, chemical attack, and that he awaits further and better evidence.

    God help the moron and the unfortunate country that the fool represents.
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 02, 2013 2:02 PM
    But you're still in the country and have not checked out. If you cannot listen to their media news and don't trust the government, why are you still an American citizen? I suggest you go live in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan where women's rights and rights of citizens are gratuitously flamboyant.

    by: Philemena Druckhorst from: Slovenia
    August 31, 2013 7:41 PM
    Two decades of jobs offshoring has left the US with a third world labor force employed in lowly paid domestic nontradable services, a workforce comparable to India’s of 40 years ago. Already the “world’s sole superpower” is afflicted with a large percentage of its population dependent on government welfare for survival. As the economy closes down, the government’s ability to meet the rising demands of survival diminishes. The rich will demand that the poor be sacrificed in the interest of the rich. And the political parties will comply.

    Is this the reason that Homeland Security, a Nazi Gestapo institution, now has a large and growing para-military force equipped with tanks, drones, and billions of rounds of ammunition?

    How long will it be before American citizens are shot down in their streets by “their” government as occurs frequently in Washington’s close allies in Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain?

    Americans have neglected the requirements of liberty. Americans are so patriotic and so gullible that all the government has to do is to wrap itself in the flag, and the people, or too many of them, believe whatever lie the government tells. And the gullible people will defend the government’s lie to their death, indeed, to the death of the entire world.

    If Americans keep believing the government’s lies, they have no future. If truth be known, Americans have already lost a livable future. The neocons’ “American Century” is over before it begun.

    by: Madeline Eggburp from: USA
    August 31, 2013 7:39 PM
    If Obama goes it alone, he will be harassed for the rest of his life as a war criminal who dares not leave the US. Indeed, a looming economic collapse could so alter the power and attitude of the United States that Obama could find himself brought to justice for his war crimes.

    Regardless, the United States government has lost its credibility throughout the world and will never regain it, unless the Bush and Obama regimes are arrested and put on trial for their war crimes.

    Obama’s destruction of US credibility goes far beyond diplomacy. It is likely that this autumn or winter, and almost certainly in 2014, the US will face severe economic crisis.

    The long-term abuse of the US dollar’s reserve currency role by the Federal Reserve and US Treasury, the never-ending issuance of new debt and printing of dollars to finance it, the focus of US economic policy on bailing out the “banks too big to fail” regardless of the adverse impact on domestic and world economies and holders of US Treasury debt, the awaiting political crisis of the unresolved deficit and debt ceiling limit that will greet Congress’ return to Washington in September, collapsing job opportunities and a sinking economy all together present the government in Washington with a crisis that is too large for the available intelligence, knowledge, and courage to master.

    When the proverbial hits the fan, the incompetent and corrupt Federal Reserve and the incompetent and corrupt US Treasury will have no more credibility than Obama and John Kerry.

    The rest of the world–especially Washington’s bullied NATO puppet states–will take great delight in the discomfort of “the world’s sole superpower” that has been running on hubris ever since the Soviet collapse.

    The world is not going to bail out Washington, now universally hated, with currency swaps, more loans, and foreign aid. Americans are going to pay heavily for their negligence, their inattention, their unconcern, and their ignorant belief that nothing can go wrong for them and that anything that does is temporary.

    by: Doris Bottomburp from: California
    August 31, 2013 7:32 PM
    A foolish President Obama and moronic Secretary of State Kerry have handed the United States government its worst diplomatic defeat in history and destroyed the credibility of the Office of the President, the Department of State, and the entire executive branch. All are exposed as a collection of third-rate liars.

    Intoxicated with hubris from past successful lies and deceptions used to destroy Iraq and Libya, Obama thought the US “superpower,” the “exceptional” and “indispensable” country, could pull it off again, this time in Syria.

    But the rest of the world has learned to avoid Washington’s rush to war when there is no evidence. A foolish Obama was pushed far out on the limb by an incompetent and untrustworthy National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, and the pack of neoconservatives that support her, and the British Parliament cut the limb off.

    What kind of fool would put himself in that vulnerable position?

    Now Obama stands alone, isolated, trying to back away from his threat to attack without authorization from anyone–not from the UN, not from NATO, not from Congress who he ignored–a sovereign country. Under the Nuremberg Standard military aggression is a war crime. Washington has until now got away with its war crimes by cloaking them in UN or NATO approval. Despite these “approvals,” they remain war crimes.

    But his National Security Advisor and the neocon warmongers are telling him that he must prove that he is a Real Man who can stand alone and commit war crimes all by himself without orchestrated cover from the UN or NATO or a cowardly US Congress. It is up to Obama, they insist, to establish for all time that the President of the United States is above all law. He, and he alone is the “decider,” the Caesar, who determines what is permissible. The Caesar of the “sole superpower” must now assert his authority over all law or Washington’s hegemony over the world is lost.
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    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 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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora