News / Middle East

    Push for Military Action on Syria Appears to Slow

    U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power talks with British delegate Michael Tatham during a United Nations Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York,  Aug. 29, 2013.
    U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power talks with British delegate Michael Tatham during a United Nations Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Aug. 29, 2013.
    The drive for a quick military response to reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria appears to be slowing, as legislators in the United States and Britain make clear they are in no hurry to become involved in another Middle East conflict.

    At the same time, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging world powers to hold off on possible military action until a U.N. chemical weapons inspection team completes its work in the country.

    U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq on Thursday said the team investigating the August 21 attack near Damascus would leave the country by Saturday morning.  While some will remain in Europe to analyze their samples, Haq said U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane and other inspectors will be in New York in the coming days to brief Ban.

    “They will have a large number of facts at their disposal, they’ve collected considerable amount of evidence - evidence through samples, evidence through witness interviews -- they can construct from that a fact-based narrative that can get at the key facts of what happened,” he said.

    Once laboratory results are in, the team will issue a final report.  Haq said, “It is imperative that the work that the investigation team does be seen by all as fair, impartial and accurate.”

    Also Thursday, Russia called a meeting of the other permanent members of the Security Council.  Talks with Britain, China, France and the United States lasted about 45 minutes, but diplomats did not brief reporters on what transpired.  On Wednesday, the group met to discuss a resolution proposed by Britain that would authorize “all necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians.

    International military deployments directed toward SyriaInternational military deployments directed toward Syria
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    International military deployments directed toward Syria
    International military deployments directed toward Syria
    ​Washington and its European allies have made clear they think the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the suspected chemical attack, which killed hundreds of civilians, and have said a military response is needed.

    The United States on Thursday sent a fifth navy destroyer to the Mediterranean; Britain is reinforcing its military on Cyprus, and Israel is bolstering its forces along the Syrian border.

    Opposition grows

    Even as military assets take position, the U.S. and its allies face growing opposition, both at home and abroad, to a strike against Syria.

    In the U.S., more than 100 members of Congress, including several from Obama’s Democratic Party, signed a letter demanding that the administration consult with Congress before any military action.

    Congressman Scott Rigell, a Republican who wrote the letter, told VOA correspondent Cindy Saine that Obama should adhere to U.S. law.

    To follow the U.S. Constitution, he said, if Obama wants to use force, “he does need to call us into a joint session, make the case before the American people, allow us a reasonable amount of time to deliberate the matter and then to issue specific statutory authority prior to the use of force.”

    British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vital parliamentary vote on Thursday night meant to pave the way for Britain to join a military strike on Syria, in a move that appeared to all but rule out British involvement in such action.

    On Thursday, some lawmakers questioned if British military action would draw the country further into Syria's civil war.  Cameron argued that failing to respond would send Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a message that he could use chemical weapons with no fear of reprisal.

    A British Typhoon fighter jet comes in to land at a British air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, Aug. 29 2013.A British Typhoon fighter jet comes in to land at a British air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, Aug. 29 2013.
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    A British Typhoon fighter jet comes in to land at a British air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, Aug. 29 2013.
    A British Typhoon fighter jet comes in to land at a British air base in Akrotiri, Cyprus, Aug. 29 2013.
    The British Defense Ministry said it has sent additional fighter jets to Cyprus as a precaution because of Middle East tensions. The Defense Ministry said the jets are not intended to be used in any operation against Syria.

    Security Council members China and Russia have blocked previous attempts to impose sanctions on Assad’s regime.  That has led to frustration for the U.S. and its European allies.

    On Wednesday, Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that despite Russian opposition to a U.N. authorization of force in Syria, Washington will take its own “appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead.”

    Deaths across Syria from conflict - updated August 28, 2013Deaths across Syria from conflict - updated August 28, 2013
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    Deaths across Syria from conflict - updated August 28, 2013
    Deaths across Syria from conflict - updated August 28, 2013
    The Syrian government denies having any role in the alleged gas attacks.  State media quoted Assad Thursday as saying his country will defend itself against any aggression.

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said his government and Russia will work to prevent an attack on Syria, and warned any assault could “bring great costs” to the region.  

    Iran also has warned that any Western action against Syria would result in the “imminent destruction of Israel,” a U.S. ally in the region.

    Also Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government supports Washington and its other allies contemplating a military response to Syria.  He said, however, the Canadian military would not take a role in any attack.

    Later on Thursday, Obama's top national security advisers planned to brief members of Congress about intelligence on the gas attacks.

    Obama says he has not decided on any action, but vowed that those who break international norms need to be held accountable.

    As diplomats debate, more Syrians are expected to flee their country, which has been embroiled in a two-year civil war.

    The United Nations and aid groups report new refugee flows to neighboring countries: already more than two million Syrians have fled, half of them children.

    Timeline of events in Syria:

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    Comments
         
    by: judith kay from: bureau county illinois
    August 30, 2013 9:39 AM
    wait a month and he will be back

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    August 30, 2013 1:55 AM
    The UN Security Council voted against the used of chemical weapon on Civilians, And looking at the situation in Syria, there are lot of innocent civilians dying, especially young children. The world cannot sit there and see these things happening, because it is not happening to you. The U.S and it's allied need to take military action in Syria. The Syrian people are tired seeing the world watching them dying slowly and nobody doing anything. We stand with PM Cameron, President Obama to do what it takes to bring peace and stability in Syria. To hell with Russia, Shame on Russia, they are the one who supposed to do the right thing, instead they are doing everything to make sure America is not successful in her bringing peace to the Mid East. The People of Syria need to be free, Assad must go. Enough is really enough.

    by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
    August 29, 2013 4:08 PM
    With the recent past with the so called smoking gun at the UN by former Sec. Of State Mr. Powell, we need to be careful about any decision involving intelligence. If the intelligence is true, then the President of US and PM of Britain ought to be able to share that evidence with the public. It would be rather naive to think this response will be just an one time event and safety in the region will be restored. The US stand to get sucked into a long period of war including boots on the grounds. So, let us be careful before such a response is carried out in a hurry. Yes, if the intelligence is true, Syria needs to be punished, but how can one trust the intelligence on their say so. Right now they dont have a great track record. Verify the claims before taking actions, otherwise we might find ourselves in a long messy situation.

    by: Anonymous
    August 29, 2013 3:47 PM
    Assad has murdered nearly 100,000 people, and destroyed the nation, plunged it backwards 30 years. Then he took off to Iran???
    This is the acts of a criminal on the run. Interpol should put a warrant out for his arrest regardless of what Russia or China thinks. The ICC International Criminal Court should still go after him.
    In Response

    by: mambo vipi
    August 30, 2013 4:03 AM
    ICC what for ?what about blair and bush for their war crimes in iraq and other countries.Russia and China should block these warmongers from starting any war in already troubled region,you can not put out fire with fire and who will benefit from Syrian government fall ?
    In Response

    by: us from: us
    August 29, 2013 9:36 PM
    The same could be said about the United States--overthrowing governments for special interest, torturing people, stealing from their own people and so on. Besides there is no evidence, just made up stories to steal more oil from another country--same old story

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