August 29, 2013

U.S. readies possible solo action against Syria

Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., says the administration is in the process of declassifying evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people.

The Associated Press

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Protesters against U.S. military intervention in Syria are pictured as they set up a cardboard cutout of U.S. President Obama, during a rally outside the White House in Washington
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Protesters against U.S. military intervention in Syria stand beside a cutout of President Obama at a rally Thursday outside the White House. Skeptics want solid evidence linking the Assad regime to the use of chemical weapons.

Reuters

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Israeli soldiers drive a tank at a staging area in the Golan Heights, near the border between the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. United Nations experts are investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria as the United States and allies prepare for the possibility of a punitive strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, blamed by the Syrian opposition for the attack. The international aid group Doctors Without Borders says at least 355 people were killed in the Aug. 21 attack. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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Five UN powers end Syria meeting with no progress

UNITED NATIONS — A meeting of the U.N. Security Council's permanent members ended quickly Thursday with no sign of progress on an agreement over Syria's crisis.

The meeting Thursday afternoon started breaking up after less than an hour, with the ambassadors of China, France, Britain, Russia and the United States steadily walking out.

It was the second time in two days that the five Security Council powers came out of a meeting on Syria with no progress. On Wednesday, the five countries met to discuss a resolution proposed by Britain to authorize the use of military force against Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.

Russia remains firmly opposed to such action, saying there is no evidence the Syrian regime was responsible for the attack, as the U.S. and its allies contend.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant looked grim as he walk past reporters Thursday, saying "no comment." The other ambassadors also did not speak to reporters.

A Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, said Russia called Thursday's meeting. Russia's U.N. mission refused to comment.

– The Associated Press

"Simply lashing out with military force under the banner of 'doing something' will not secure our interests in Syria," Smith said in a statement.

Thursday's briefing for lawmakers was expected to include only unclassified intelligence, meaning that key details that could more clearly link Assad to a chemical attack might not have been part of it. A similar intelligence report is also expected to be released publicly on Friday.

Obama continued making his case for a robust response to world leaders, speaking Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. With national elections scheduled in Germany for next month, Merkel is unlikely to pull her country into a military conflict.

Merkel also discussed Syria by phone Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, insisting that the attack "requires an international reaction," Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Obama has ruled out putting American forces on the ground in Syria or setting up a no-fly zone over the country. He's also said any U.S. response to the chemical weapons attack would be limited in scope and aimed solely at punishing Assad for deploying deadly gases, not at regime change.

"We do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable," he said during a television interview.

The most likely military option would be Tomahawk cruise missile strikes from four Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. At a minimum, Western forces are expected to strike targets that symbolize Assad's military and political might: military and national police headquarters, including the Defense Ministry; the Syrian military's general staff; and the four-brigade Republican Guard that is in charge of protecting Damascus, Assad's seat of power. Assad's ruling Baath Party headquarters could be targeted, too.

U.S. officials also are considering attacking military command centers and vital forces, communications hubs and weapons caches, including ballistic missile batteries.

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Members of the Syrian community in Allentown, Pa. rally for the second day in a row Wednesday against the United States' involvement in Syria.

The Associated Press

  


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