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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: Shameful CIA funding from: VA
    August 31, 2013 7:29 PM
    Obama addressed the public on Saturday from the White House Rose Garden. He confirmed US’s intention to use force against Syria, however, is reportedly waiting to enforce military action until Congress is able to hold a debate and vote on the matter.

    “House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Saturday that he expects the House to consider the measure the week of Sept. 9,” reported The Hill.

    Obama claims he has the authority to move forward solo, but surprisingly stated it’s important for the country to debate military intervention.

    “I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress. The country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be more effective,” said Obama.

    His position most likely stems from innumerable world allies and government officials who have strongly voiced their opposition to military involvement in Syria.

    Just as Dr. Paul Craig Roberts wrote today in a piece entitled America Totally Discredited, he assesses this is the greatest diplomatic meltdown in US history.

    In his report he acknowledges the greatest danger now is that the White House may attempt to stage something else in order to persuade the unconvinced public into a war with Syria.

    “The rest of the world has learned to avoid Washington’s rush to war when there is no evidence,” writes Roberts.

    Both Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul have come out saying the chemical attacks have all the hallmarks of a false flag or staged event.

    In closing, Obama nonchalantly informed the public that the US is in a position to strike, and that the strike could come tomorrow, next week or even a month from now.

    A military response is “not time sensitive,” reiterated the President.

    Following the UK Parliament’s decision to vote no against Syrian intervention, “Obama indicated he will not wait for either approval from the U.N. Security Council or the conclusion of U.N. inspectors’ investigation into the Syria attack,” reported Fox News.

    Obama’s decision to follow the Constitutional law of the republic for now, is a tremendous victory for America.

    by: Ramnarayan from: Florida
    August 31, 2013 5:00 PM


    I am not a fan of Obama anymore. However, I am glad he decided to consult the congress. Perhaps next ten days brings in new evidence and the world can listen to the resons before the US legislators decide. I agree this henious act must be punished and not let go simply because many of us dont like wars. But, let us be clear of the facts before shooting some missiles for fun. I am dreaming that our congress would vote no, but I know I am kidding myself. At the end of the day, our legislators will go along for a simple reason that most of them are idiots.. Also we in the US would like to think we have a God given right to establish the world order. I hope I am wrong and our politicians for a change follow our cousins.

    by: Malek Towghi, Ph.D. from: Michigan, USA
    August 31, 2013 4:55 PM
    Thank you, Mr. President, for making the action concerning Syria contingent upon formal Congressional authorization. Hopefully, Congress will have the courage to say NO to the Military Industrial Complex. God bless the United States of America.

    by: Anonymous
    August 31, 2013 4:14 PM
    GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!!!NO WAR IN SYRIA!

    by: Ismail Aljazaeri
    August 31, 2013 3:37 PM
    This was a good decision of president Obama. US should be honest with itself and with the world. every single indication show that the chemical weapons have been used by the terrorist cannibal gangs. Carla Del ponte confirmed, the Turkish government arrested Al nusra terrorists with 4.2 pounds of sarin back in may. recently it has been reported that Bandar Bin Sultan made the chemical substance available to the terrorist gangs, smuggled from Jordan to hasten the international involvement.
    Fabricating false prove will not work, no one will believe that. America's credibility is at stake, don't ruin it to please medieval Arabs monarchies.

    by: Mya Sole from: Oregon, USA
    August 31, 2013 3:24 PM
    Just for an instant, sometime earlier this week, I thought Ye Olde Empty Suit would actually back his campaign promises of being a 'true' representative of American 'values'.
    Nope. Now that he's hell-bent on pleasing everyone, stepping on no toes, and conveniently forgetting that he once represented Mob City USA, the ONLY thing he's accomplished is becoming the Uncle Tom in Chief.
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    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 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 Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    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 Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    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.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora