News / USA

US Urges UN to Probe Alleged Syrian Chemical Attack

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House, Aug. 21, 2013.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House, Aug. 21, 2013.
Kent Klein
The Obama administration is asking the United Nations to investigate allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians. Officials also are seeking a Security Council debate on the issue.
Shortly before an emergency meeting Wednesday of the U.N. Security Council, White House officials said they were “deeply concerned” about a report that the weapons were used.

Opposition activists say the government of President Bashar al-Assad used toxic gas in an attack that killed at least 100 people. The Syrian government denies the charge.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States could not confirm the report. For that reason, he said it is even more important the Assad government allow U.N. inspectors now in the country to have access to where the attack is said to have taken place.

“There is an investigation team that is on the ground in Syria right now, and we are hopeful that the Assad regime will follow through on what they have claimed previously, that they are interested in a credible investigation that gets to the bottom of reports that chemical weapons have been used.  So, again, it is time for the Assad regime to live up to their rhetoric in this regard,” he said.

Earnest rejected a reporter’s assertion that international pressure is having no effect on the Assad government, but he acknowledged that it has not stopped the violence.

“We have seen evidence and indications that the Assad regime is feeling that pressure, but you are right that it has not resulted in the outcome that we would like to see, which is Assad being completely removed from power,” he said.

Steven Heydemann, senior adviser for Middle East initiatives at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said that if the attack took place as reported, the Syrian government is not worried about international condemnation.

“What this use of these weapons tells us is that the Assad regime really is not terribly concerned about either the presence of this U.N. team or about a negative world reaction to its use of this kind of weapons," he said. "It is determined to use them, even though it knows that it will generate enormous criticism internationally.”

The White House has not announced any new initiatives in the aftermath of the reported chemical attack in Syria. Heydemann said he does not expect any immediate change in Obama administration policy.

“And so it seems as if the White House is not prepared to view this event as a game-changer, in terms of its approach to Syria, at least for the moment,” said Heydemann.

President Barack Obama announced earlier this year that he intends to ship weapons to Syrian opposition groups. Concerns in Congress about the possibility of those arms ending up with groups that are hostile to the U.S. have led to delays in approval of the shipments.

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Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 22, 2013 1:53 PM
Mr. Obama once said the use of chemical weapons by Assad was a red line the regime should not cross. Long time ago an ally of the US out there raised an alarm to the effect Bashir al Assad had used chemical weapons in prosecuting the war against the opposition, but the US disregarded that. Mr. Obama's response to USA's allies in the ME leaves much to be desired. It tells tale of a hostile friendship, a grey gap in the American sustenance of cooperation with those friend nations. Maybe we have seen a lot of Mr. Obama taking priority over the entire country in relations with diplomatic pacts between US and its allies in the ME. Now another evidence of concrete crossing of the red line has emerged; with children and men apparently roasted in asphyxiation from poison gas whose only possible source is the war between Assad and his opposition.
Obviously Mr. Obama had used that warning as intimidation for Mr. Assad. But Assad appears to have understood Mr. Obama so well that he is not fooled by another Obama bluff. However we cannot say for certainty that only Mr. Assad has access to those chemical weapons. To this end, the scope of the terms of reference for the investigators should be wide enough to scoop every possible involvement, Assad regime, opposition, Hezbollah, Hamas or al qaida. The references should include also the location of the attacks, whether they happened in Sunni, shia, secular or Christian areas. This is because both regime and opposition might want to insinuate anything against each other, especially at the expense of those who matter little to them. But the knowledge of this will help determine who might possibly use such an alibi to its advantage.
So far, television footage seems to present a serious query and a picture of stage managed affair. We see a lot of children and men. There are no women, which does not show a representation of true situation. What were so many children doing out all on their own without their mothers or even sisters? Again chemical burns are absent. We leave details for the inspectors and investigators. But the bottom line is that Mr. Obama should stop thinking that to be the president of USA means he should say things he has no intention to do, or that whatever he says becomes a law that must sort itself out at its own time. That only exposes the US to more ridicule. Assad can move with impunity because both Russia and China will stand to prevent any and every backlash from those actions he takes – good or bad.

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