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World Powers Split Over US Plan to Punish Syria

World Powers Split Over US Plan to Punish Syriai
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September 07, 2013
The Group of 20 split down the middle Friday on the question of supporting the United States in punishing Syria’s government for apparently gassing civilians two weeks ago in Damascus. VOA's James Brooke reports that as the G-20 meeting ended in St. Petersburg, the White House released a statement endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama and 10 other world leaders.

VIDEO: Group of 20 cleaved down the middle Friday on question of supporting U.S. in push for strikes against the Syria’s government.

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— The Group of 20 split down the middle Friday on the question of supporting the United States in punishing Syria’s government for apparently gassing civilians two weeks ago in Damascus.

As the G-20 meeting ended in St. Petersburg, the White House released a statement endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama and 10 other world leaders. It said: “The world cannot wait for endless failed processes that can only lead to increased suffering in Syria and regional instability. We support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”

Obama said his next step will be to appeal directly to the American people in a televised address from the White House on Tuesday. The U.S. president is seeking approval from the U.S. Congress for air strikes against Syria’s military.

In Russia, he said the world cannot stand by while weapons of mass destruction are used against civilians.

“Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that they can use W.M.D. and not pay a consequence - and that’s not a world we want to live in,” the American president told reporters.

Making a case

The statement backing U.S. action was endorsed by the leaders of Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Turkey.

During his 24 hours in St. Petersburg, the American president stressed that military action will be limited to punishing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for gassing civilians.

“Gassing innocent people, delivering chemical weapons against children, is not something we do,” he said at the press conference. “It’s prohibited in active wars between countries, even more so against children, and we’ve got to stand up for that principle.”

Obama repeatedly refused to say whether he would order air attacks against Syria if Congress does not vote to authorize use of military force.

In St. Petersburg, the American president repeatedly was countered by Russian President Vladimir Putin - in a 20-minute one-on-one meeting Thursday night, and at group meetings of the world leaders.

Putin presses point

At Putin’s press conference, he listed the countries that supported his position of non-interference.

“Who was categorically against?” he asked. “Russia, China, India, Indonesia - I draw your attention, the largest Muslim country in the world in terms of population - Argentina, Brazil, South Africa.”

While several countries are against U.S. action, the Russian president also took what are increasingly minority positions: casting doubt that chemical weapons were used and saying that, if they were, it was opposition fighters who used them.

“I assume that everything that happened with the so-called chemical weapons, is a provocation by the fighters, who are counting on to their side, on the help of those countries who from the beginning supported them,” said Putin. “That's the whole point of this provocation.”

A reporter asked the Russian president if Russia would send military aid to Syria in the event of an attack by the United States.

“Are we going to help Syria?” asked Putin. “We will. The way we now help. We supply weapons, we cooperate in the economic sphere. I hope there will be more cooperation in the humanitarian sphere.”

Russia's reprisals

Earlier in the week, the Russian leader suggested that if the United States attacks, the Kremlin would consider completing delivery of sophisticated S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria.

Russia’s support of Syria’s government is so rock solid, that the Obama administration has little hope of winning support in the United Nations Security Council.

Russia has vetoed three Syria resolutions in the Security Council. On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said: "Russia continues to hold the Council hostage and shirk its responsibility."

With the world divided and congressional support in doubt, the American president seems to face an uphill battle to forge ahead with air strikes.

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center foreground, gestures as he walks by U.S. President Barack Obama, front row second right, as he takes his place at a group photo outside of the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama, right, walks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a group photo of G-20 leaders outside of the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013. 
  • An image of U.S. President Barack Obama drinking out of a paper cup is shown on a large screen in the media center of a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013. 
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a media conference after a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) arrives for the family picture event during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama walks away after shaking hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during arrivals for the G20 Summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • A man protests possible military action in Syria as the first day of the G20 Summit gets underway in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • BRICS leaders' at the G20 Summit in Strelna near St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • Participants sit at a table during a BRICS leaders' meeting at the G20 Summit in Strelna near St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • Apples are seen on the ground next to statues across the street from the Constantine Palace, the venue for a G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Sept. 4, 2013.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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by: ABWH from: MOROCO
September 07, 2013 11:40 AM
What a disgusted world!
I do not undersatnd this thing : When people is killed in syria everyday,nobody wants to stop that.And when Syria uses chemical weapons (no proof up to now),the democratic USA seeks to attack it because their use is forbidden and by the way send a signal to the others.
the life of people is not important but the way how we kill them counts!!!


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 07, 2013 10:01 AM
Just let's call them world powers and get their heads swollen. What's special about the so-called big five? Their diplomatic navigation is so raw, their leverage so poor, and their intellect so timid. There is nothing good anymore in them to preserve humanity and its dignity. All the big five is good at is selfish economy pursuit, corrupt of morals and change - even when not necessary. The UN should abrogate the security council unit and let the Secretary General's office do the work it presently does. In fact, the office of the security council is an unnecessary duplication, a clog in the wheels of the UN and an avenue for the permanent members to perpetrate and defend evil done by their respective power blocs and alliances.


by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
September 07, 2013 3:42 AM
President Obama we support you, we stand with you in any decision you make in bringing peace and stability to the region. America has the strongest military in the world as we speak. there is no country in this present world that can defeat America. and that is the true. Israel bomb Syria three times in this year, the last bombing was in the heart of Damascus, what did Assad do ? nothing. Assad cannot even defeat the rebels in his Country, how can he fight America? nonsense. America has some doomsday weapons that the world has not seen, with all that power that America, do you think America will sit the for so call Russia to try nonsense with her? you are out of your mind. We need to teach those dictator a lesson. enough is really enough. we cannot sit there as the father of democracy and see these things happening and do nothing, enough is enough. Assad must go. Syria is not his father farm. There are lot of Syrians who are educated and are capable to run Syria. I am not surprised of Mr. Putin decision, cuz He is a dictator, every election he won the so call election. what kind of mess is that? Is he the only one the Russian people love to rule them? He is criminal like Assad, Cuz every election he ricks the election, that is why he supports Assad. God Bless our Troops, God bless America, and God Bless President Obama.


by: riano baggy from: indonesia
September 07, 2013 1:45 AM
US can't strike Syria without accurate prove we don't like as bush' administration
opinion to striked Iraq without accurate prove. Wait statement form UN investigation, we sure any countries can agree to make sanction to Syria gov if proved they use chemical weapons to killed civil citizens.


by: van from: vn
September 07, 2013 12:53 AM
Very good Obama. i like your position.we cannot stand still and look a government causes deaths of over 100,000 civilians. we are human and we must do st to save this.


by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
September 06, 2013 11:54 PM
Every President of the United States has taken an oath to defend the Country in the time of war, And As a Commander in Chief of the Arm Forces of America, Mr. Obama has the right to declare war. And let us be clear here Syria and Iran are enemies to America. They have made their intention to America and the world, that death to America, death to Israel. and we cannot sit here and denied it. We support Mr. Obama for ant military strike against Syria and anyone poses a threat to our Country and our way of life. If you don't like America, don't come here. America is coming for you. be it who. It is not late yet, it is time that America act. Mr. Putin is bad example to the Russian people and to himself. He of all should be doing the right thing, instead he always opposed America. Mr. Putin is a dictator himself. So we don't expect him to do the right thing. He is suppressing the Russian people, He is not a good man. God Bless America, God Bless President Obama.


by: James P Clugston
September 06, 2013 10:28 PM
First of all, let's get this straight. Obama is the one who wants to strike Syria, NOT THE USA. We as a nation of people did not approve of the last 2 wars, and I have to believe that we don't need yet another war.

Second. No proof that the chemical bomb was drop by the Syrian government. Putin ask for proof....none was given.

Third. The rebels have Extremist, including Al-Qaeda terrorist. Now, we know that these people don't care about life, as we found out 9/11/2001. At this point, I can't rule out that these extremist set off the bomb themselves.

In the end, by entering this war, on either side, the only people to lose is American people. Not that my vote counts for anything, but I vote no.

In Response

by: Anonymous
September 07, 2013 6:17 AM
Its not that the suicide bombers don't care about life they think that they will go to heaven in the Islamic religion if they die for their country. It doesn't matter even if they are doing something that is wrong or harmful towards others they think what they are doing for their country is a good thing.

In Response

by: Anonymous
September 07, 2013 1:30 AM
Assad must be stopped at all costs. Anyone who sits back and does noting is allowing atrocities and genocide. It's time to put the hammer down and serve assad his long awaited justice for his crimes. Of course there is crimes on both sides but assads was supposed to be representing the nation, instead he has destroyed a good portion of it and murdered thousands. I would like to see assad hanged for his crimes, regardless who else is up next in the seat for their government. So many Syrian Army Forces have been defecting for 2 years, more even now, they refuse to murder civilians and destroy every city, town, village in Syria. Good on them, god bless the Syrian people!!!


by: Shameful President from: Shameland
September 06, 2013 9:36 PM
In a speech today at the G20 Summit in Russia, President Barack Obama stated that members of Congress should listen to their voters but ultimately should act on their own, against their constituency, in order to make a decision that is “right for America.”


Segment begins at the 27:45 minute mark.

Obama made this revealing statement after a journalist asked, “One of your closest allies in the House said yesterday, ‘When you’ve got 97 percent of your constituents saying no, it’s kind of hard to say yes.’ Why should members of Congress go against the will of their constituents and support your decision on this?”

“Now, with respect to Congress and how they should respond to constituency concerns, you know, I do consider it part of my job to help make the case and to explain to the American people exactly why I think this is the right thing to do,” Obama said. “It’s conceivable that at the end of the day, I don’t persuade a majority of the American people that it’s the right thing to do and then each member of Congress is gonna have to decide, if I think it’s the right thing to do for America’s national security and the world’s national security, then how do I vote?”

“And you know what? That’s — that’s what you’re supposed to do as a member of Congress. Ultimately, you listen to your constituents, but you’ve also got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for America.”

In short, Obama will try to influence Americans into supporting his war, but failing that, Congress is supposed to just ignore the vast majority of voters against the war and approve military action in Syria.

As Obama implied, members of Congress should represent themselves rather than the voters who placed them in office, especially when Obama’s aims run contrary to the demands of the American people.

This is right in line with a senior State Department official’s earlier statement that “the president’s decision to take military action in Syria still stands, and will indeed be carried out, regardless of whether Congress votes next week to approve the use of such force.”

As we reported yesterday, Congress members across the nation are being overwhelmed by unprecedented opposition towards a war in Syria.

“I’m told the phone calls are 9 out of 10 against a strike in Syria, from my constituents in Kentucky,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Az.) told the National Review that out of the 500 voters who called his office recently, 498 of them adamantly wanted to stay out of Syria.

Anti-war sentiments are prevailing in both major parties.

“I can tell you 99 percent of the calls coming to my office are against it,” Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings said to MSNBC.

It is interesting to note that in 2012, 76% of his district voted for Obama.

In Response

by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
September 07, 2013 3:42 AM
What a revealing statement from our President. Yes, the Congress should vote their conscience keeping in their mind who elected them and why they were sent to DC. Seems like we will go through a charade of debating, but my mind is already made up. So, dont bother. After all, what are you going to do to me as I am not up for reelection attitude from the President. But, the congress and the Senate, I hope realize in thier own wisdom that they may be reelectable. Vote no folks and show that you first of all care for the public opinion and you can do great service to our Country. Please dont make all what our forefathers have faught for to make US a beacon of democracy would bave been wasted. If public opinion does not matter, what would be the difference between us and the questionable kings and dicators we have around the middle east? How can any of us sit and listen to this President and go along with whatever he is going to do, if we dont matter? It is sad that this President is living in a bubble with a bunch of advisors, who probably are far from the public. For them, perhaps the only contact they have with public is through their pollsters and through the computers and some data. America used to mean hope and freedom to the world. With the pathetic leadership and gridlock we have seen in the last decades is only fast forwarding us towards becoming irrelevant. Mr. President- you want to leave a legacy, dont listen to your advisors, dont live in an imaginary world and address our own problems, economy to education to our veteran's welfare. Bring some average joe to advise. you will be amazed, how many of us really care and will give diverse, but honest views. Otherwise, your Presidency is likely to be remembered as the one of the worst.


by: pilisugsug from: USA
September 06, 2013 7:34 PM
I'm 67 years old. I fought in the Vietnam War in 1968. I came back to a country that deeply opposed the war. And in time, I was disgusted with our government for sending me and thousands of others to Vietnam. As I write this comment I can say that our government is as disgusting now as it was back in my war days. Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. We have bullied other nations to adhere to our way of life. We have killed hundreds of thousands of fathers who were defending their country against America. We have left over a million orphans since 1968 to fend for themselves. As I write this comment, I remind myself of the evil we have done. Iraq is near a revolution as Sunnis and Shia are killing each other daily. This was Bush's lie. Afghanistan is out of control. America has paid a heavy price since my day until now. Our government has put us in many conflicts, too many lives lost, too many have lost their limbs etc. while our congress sit at their desks conjuring up ways to fight someone else' war. And while we are fighting these wars most of our congress get rich by their inside trading. There is no moral compass in our government. Now these hypocrites will vote on Syria. For us to go and fight in Syria is madness. Even one bomb could lead us into a much worse situation. Remember this, all and I mean all politicians have their own agenda. Most will lie to the American public. Our government was corrupt back in my day and it is still corrupt today. I'm 67 years old and nothing has changed. Have a wonderful day.

In Response

by: Eric from: Singapore
September 06, 2013 10:16 PM
Well said.


by: M Rana from: Japan
September 06, 2013 7:17 PM
USA should take lesson from the Iraq war decisions. It was a wong a decissios and that cost is paying by IraqI people even today. In the Saddam period of 30 years, as per western govt., info, there were some 50000 people had being killed. But after USA lead wrong war, since then, more than five times of people already lost their lives and even today, in avg., 50 people are dieing. Beofre attacing Syria, again with a wrong decission( may be), USA should get punished for its wrong decission based on the wrong info that Saddam has weapons of mass-destruction. USA should feel shy about its intellignet info and its system. OR. it was a intentional wrong info!!!

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