TribLIVE

| News


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

US readies rationale for possible Syria strike

REUTERS - Free Syrian Army fighters take cover inside a damaged house in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>REUTERS</em></div>Free Syrian Army fighters take cover inside a damaged house in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013.
REUTERS - A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures as his fellow fighters chant inside a room in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013. P
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>REUTERS</em></div>A Free Syrian Army fighter gestures as his fellow fighters chant inside a room in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013. P
REUTERS - A Free Syrian Army fighter reacts after firing towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>REUTERS</em></div>A Free Syrian Army fighter reacts after firing towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013.
REUTERS - A Free Syrian Army fighter cleans his gun as a fellow fighter watches inside a room in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>REUTERS</em></div>A Free Syrian Army fighter cleans his gun as a fellow fighter watches inside a room in Deir al-Zor August 26, 2013.
REUTERS - Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in Syria, walk at a new refugee camp in the outskirts of the city of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region August 26, 2013. Iraq's northern Kurdistan region has no plans to send troops into Syria to defend fellow Kurds, a senior Iraqi Kurdish official said, despite safety concerns which have driven thousands to cross the border.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>REUTERS</em></div>Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in Syria, walk at a new refugee camp in the outskirts of the city of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region August 26, 2013. Iraq's northern Kurdistan region has no plans to send troops into Syria to defend fellow Kurds, a senior Iraqi Kurdish official said, despite safety concerns which have driven thousands to cross the border.
REUTERS - Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in Syria, sit at a new refugee camp in the outskirts of the city of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region August 26, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>REUTERS</em></div>Syrian refugees, who fled the violence in Syria, sit at a new refugee camp in the outskirts of the city of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region August 26, 2013.
REUTERS - Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moualem speaks during a news conference in Damascus August 27, 2013. Syria will press on with its military efforts despite any potential foreign strikes on its territory, Moualem said on Tuesday, adding that any strike would serve the interest of al Qaeda-linked rebel groups. 'The (government's) military effort will not stop around Damascus. If the purpose is to limit the victories of our armed forces, they will not be successful,' Moualem told a news conference.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>REUTERS</em></div>Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moualem speaks during a news conference in Damascus August 27, 2013. Syria will press on with its military efforts despite any potential foreign strikes on its territory, Moualem said on Tuesday, adding that any strike would serve the interest of al Qaeda-linked rebel groups. 'The (government's) military effort will not stop around Damascus. If the purpose is to limit the victories of our armed forces, they will not be successful,' Moualem told a news conference.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

Editors Picks Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 5:39 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration tried to bolster its case Tuesday for possible military action against Syria within days, with intelligence agencies preparing to release intercepted communications aimed at proving Bashar Assad perpetrated a large-scale chemical weapons attack on civilians.

“There's no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime,” Vice President Joe Biden said.

The U.S. and international partners were unlikely to undertake military action before Thursday. That's when British Prime Minister David Cameron will convene an emergency meeting of Parliament where lawmakers are expected to vote on a motion clearing the way for a British response to the alleged chemical weapons attack.

Administration officials argued that Assad's actions posed a direct threat to U.S. national security, providing President Barack Obama with a potential legal justification for launching a strike without authorization from the United Nations or Congress. However, officials did not detail how the U.S. was directly threatened by an attack contained within Syria's borders. Nor did they present concrete proof that Assad was responsible.

“Allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to, threat to the United States' national security,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Assad has denied using chemical weapons, calling the allegations “preposterous.”

Obama is weighing a response focused narrowly on punishing Assad for violating international agreements that ban the use of chemical weapons, an act the president repeatedly has said would cross a “red line.” Officials said the goal was not to drive the Syrian leader from power or impact the broader trajectory of Syria's bloody civil war, which is now in its third year.

“The options we are considering are not about regime change,” Carney told reporters.

According to U.S. officials, the most likely operation would be largely sea-based, with the strikes coming primarily from Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea. Fighter jets often are deployed to monitor the area and protect the ships, but Syria's robust air defense system makes air strikes more difficult and risky.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said military forces stand ready to strike Syria immediately if the commander in chief gives the order. The Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean within range of targets inside Syria and also has warplanes in the region.

“We are ready to go,” Hagel said during a television interview while traveling in Asia.

Ahead of any strike, the U.S. also plans to release additional intelligence it says will directly link Assad to the Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs. Syrian activists say hundreds of people were killed in the attack. A U.S. official said the intelligence report is expected to include “signals intelligence” — information gathered from intercepted communications.

All of the officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the internal deliberations.

Even before releasing that information, U.S. officials said they had very little doubt that Assad was culpable in the attack based on witness reports, information on the number of victims and the symptoms of those killed or injured, and intelligence showing the Syrian government has not lost control of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

Other administration officials echoed Biden's comments, which marked a subtle shift in the administration's rhetoric on who bears responsibility for the attack. Earlier in the week officials would say only that there was “very little doubt” Assad was responsible.

Obama, Biden and other senior administration officials have spent much of the week seeking to rally international support for an aggressive response to the chemical weapons attack. The president spoke Tuesday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, a NATO ally, and has also talked to Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Along with Britain, France appears poised to back the U.S. response. In Paris, Hollande said Tuesday that France was “ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents.” The Arab League, a 22-member body dominated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for justice, laying blame for the attack on the Syrian government.

Italy, meanwhile, was insisting that any strike should be authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

The flurry of action was in stark contrast to Obama's previously restrained approach to Syria's civil war, which has left more than 100,000 people dead, according to U.N. estimates. He has resisted calls for a more robust U.S. response, underscoring the scant appetite among the American public for a long involvement in another Middle East war.

Even after the latest use of chemical weapons, the president has ruled out putting American troops on the ground in Syria and officials said they were not considering setting up a unilateral no-fly zone.

Instead, officials said it was likely missiles could be used to target weapons arsenals, command and control centers, radar and communications facilities, and other military headquarters. Less likely was a strike on a chemical weapons site because of the risk of releasing toxic gases.

Military experts and U.S. officials said the strikes probably would come during the night and target key military sites.

The Obama administration's desire to respond quickly to last week's attack likely puts the president in the position of taking military action without formal approval from the United Nations. Russia, which has helped prop up Assad throughout the civil war, is certain to block U.S. attempts to seek a resolution approving force at the U.N. Security Council.

It's unclear whether the president will seek some type of authorization from Congress, which is out of session until Sept. 9. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., is asking colleagues to sign a letter to Obama that urges him to reconvene Congress and seek approval for any military action.

The 1973 War Powers Resolution reaffirmed Congress' constitutional responsibility to declare war and put a 60-day time limit on the president's ability to take unauthorized, emergency military action. Since then, commanders in chief of both political parties have maintained that the resolution is unconstitutional and have regularly disregarded it.

When the U.S. acted with allies against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, Obama maintained military operations for more than three months without congressional authorization. He said the U.S. wasn't violating the War Powers Resolution because Americans were supporting a NATO-led operation and weren't engaged in full-blown hostilities.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Penguins notebook: Lovejoy says individual play is problematic
  2. First Amendment experts decry Plum authorities’ warning to students
  3. 3-judge panel in Montgomery County will hear Kane contempt case
  4. Pitt introduces Barnes as athletic director
  5. Pitt lands shooting guard from Coppin State
  6. Driver of pickup truck dies following crash into New Kensington house
  7. Police arrest 2 men after shots fired in Perry South
  8. Upper St. Clair lawyer pleads guilty to dealing in crack
  9. Kings Family Restaurants sold to California firm
  10. Harrisburg priest named bishop of Greensburg diocese
  11. NHL notebook: Commission Bettman says expansion fee would be around $500M