News / Middle East

US to Seek International Coalition on Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, gestures as he answers questions from reporters during his visit at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug. 30, 2013.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, gestures as he answers questions from reporters during his visit at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug. 30, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the United States will continue to seek an international coalition in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, despite opposition by British lawmakers to any military action.
 
"Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together," Hagel said in Manila Friday, after Britain's lower house of Parliament rejected a motion for British participation in a military strike. The non-binding vote is a setback to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who told lawmakers a military strike would be a response to a war crime, not an attempt to topple the Syrian government. 
 
Reacting to the British vote, Hagel said, “First, every nation has the responsibility to make their own decisions.  And we respect that with any nation.  We are continuing to consult with the British as we are with all of our allies and partners.  And that consultation includes ways forward, together on a response to this weapons attack in Syria."
 
Asked what Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, could do to avoid a military strike, the U.S. defense secretary responded he has "not been informed of any change in the Assad regime's position on any issue." 
 
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande said the British vote will not affect his country's position on Syria. In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, he said he does not favor international action merely to overthrow the government, but a chemical assault must not go unpunished. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief foreign policy aide said the British decision shows that "people are beginning to understand" the dangers of a military strike.
 
Germany also appears to be backing away from any military intervention in Syria. Government officials say a military commitment has not been requested and is not being considered. 

Intelligence 

The White House could make public on Friday a declassified version of an intelligence report on an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. 
 
Members of Congress who were briefed by senior administration officials on Thursday say there is no doubt the Syrian government carried out the deadly attack near Damascus, last week. 
 
Democratic Representative Eliot Engel of New York said the U.S. officials cited intercepted communications between senior Syrian officials. He also said intelligence showed the Syrians moved materials around in advance of a chemical strike.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have asked the White House for the legal justification and objectives for a military strike on Syria.

President Barack Obama is still deciding how to respond to Syria. A military strike against the Assad government appears to be the most likely course of action.

Syria denies carrying out a chemical attack and accuses the rebels of using such weapons on Syrian soldiers.

UN inspectors leave the Four Seasons Hotel in their vehicles in Damascus, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013.
UN inspectors leave the Four Seasons Hotel in their vehicles in Damascus, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013.


UN inspectors winding down Syria probe

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged 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 Mr. 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.

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

On Wednesday, Deputy U.S. 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.”

Other nations react to possible military strike

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.

In Tokyo, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan's Cabinet members are in agreement that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated under any circumstance and responsibility for their use lies with the Assad government. Japan, a close American ally, has constitutional restraints on joining any military action. But Suga says Japan will provide humanitarian assistance, especially to refugees displaced by the fighting inside Syria.

The United Nations and aid groups report new refugee flows to neighboring countries: already more than 2 million Syrians have fled, half of them children.

In Syria, opposition activists say there is heavy shelling, on Friday in suburban Damascus. 

VOA's Steve Herman contributed to this report from Bangkok.  Marissa Melton and Sam Verma contributed from Washington.

Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Syria 
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, Syrians search under rubble to rescue people from houses that were destroyed by a Syrian government warplane in Idlib province, August 30, 2013.
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, smoke rises after explosives were dropped by a Syrian government warplane in Idlib province, August 30, 2013.
  • In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, U.N. investigators gather potential evidence in a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen shows Syrians moving a man who was allegedly exposed to chemical weapons to show him to U.N. investigators in a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen shows U.N. investigators in a suburb of Damascus, August 28, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they escort U.N. vehicles carrying chemical weapons experts at the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters deploy in Aleppo's town of Khanasir after seizing it, August 26, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters inspect munitions and a tank that belonged to forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after they seized Khanasir, August 26, 2013.
  • A U.N. chemical weapons expert gathers evidence at site of an alleged poison gas attack in a southwestern Damascus suburb, August 26, 2013.
  • An image grab taken from a video posted by Syrian activists purportedly shows a U.N. inspector speaking to a man in a Damascus suburb, August 26, 2013.
  • U.N. chemical weapons experts visit a hospital where wounded people affected by a suspected gas attack are being treated, in a southwestern Damascus suburb, August 26, 2013.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs