chemical weapons

Did Obama know Syria rebels also may have chemical weapon capability?

photo by Steve Rhodes

The Obama administration based much of their hurried march to war in Syria on the conclusion that the Assad regime was responsible for the attack, and indeed was the only faction with the capability to carry it out. However, a new report based on classified defense intelligence documents directly contradicts those conclusions, in turn questioning the entire rationale for the forestalled military intervention:

The Hersh article is based in part on a four-page secret cable given to a top official at the Defense Intelligence Agency on June 20, one of a group of intelligence community documents allegedly stating that jihadi rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra has the ability to make sarin gas. Sarin is the chemical believed to have been used in the Aug 21 chemical attack in Ghouta that crossed Obama’s “red line” and prompted the administration to push for a strike on Assad’s regime. The story is sourced mainly to intelligence and military officers and consultants.

“When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad,” Hersh writes.

Obama Administration’s embarrassing foreign policy fumble

Facepalm

Just days after an U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power claimed that the United States had “exhausted the alternatives” to a military strike against Syria, the Obama Administration is seriously considering a deal brokered by Russia that may prevent a war.

The details are still in the works, but the deal, which Bashar al-Assad’s regime has accepted, would require that the Syrian government to relinquish its supply of chemical weapons to international intermediaries. Syria also says that it will ratify the chemical weapons ban treaty.

The Obama Administration remains skeptical, though the President has called the proposed deal a “positive development,” and wants the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution that would make the deal enforceable. Meanwhile, members of the United States Senate are working on a new resolution that would authorize force against Syria in the event that Assad’s government doesn’t turnover its chemical weapons arsenal.

Barack Obama, NeoCon Warmonger…Who Knew?

Oh, what a difference a few years make.

In 2009, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize despite barely getting his seat warmed up in the Oval Office. In 2009 current Secretary of State John Kerry called Assad’s Syria “an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.” In 2011, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad as a “reformer.” In 2007, then-candidate Obama attacked President George W. Bush for considering military strikes against Iran’s nuclear capability without the approval of Congress, declaring it a violation of the Constitution.

A few years later Obama attacked Libya without congressional approval, and now seeks that approval to attack Syria, even while maintaining that he does not need it in order to act.

Obama, the anti-war candidate, called Iraq a “rash war” waged for political reasons, even while he acknowledged the brutality of Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq who’d killed tens of thousands of his own people using sarin, mustard, and VX gas, primarily targeted at the Kurds of the northern provinces.

There is no debating that Saddam had launched dozens of such attacks, as well as used WMD against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War. He continually shot missiles at U.S. and Allied warplanes which were enforcing a No-Fly Zone, agreed to under the terms of surrender that allowed him to retain power.

Americans still oppose Syria intervention despite Obama’s push for war

Syria

In a last ditch effort to gain public support for military strikes against Syria, President Barack Obama will take his case for intervention directly to the American people in a televised address tomorrow evening.

While the White House insists that its confident that Congress will sign off on the strikes, the political reality is that there isn’t much support for involvement in another country’s internal conflict after more than a decade of war in the Middle East. Members of Congress have heard from constituents, many of whom have called or written their representatives to speak against the proposed military strikes.

Public opinion, which is driving the opposition to intervention in Syria, remains a high hurdle for President Obama to clear, according to three polls released on Monday.

CNN finds that Americans overwhelmingly believe that Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons against its own people. Despite that, however, 59% said that they don’t want Congress to authorize force against Syria and 55% said that they would oppose intervention even if Congress does approve military strikes. Only 39% support President Obama’s push for war.

While the White House has reserved the option to attack without support from Congress, the CNN poll also found that 71% of Americans oppose military strikes against Syria without congressional approval.

Secretary Kerry’s Senate testimony basically undermined the entire Syria narrative

John Kerry testifies on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to justify the Obama administration’s proposed strike on Syria. Hagel was typically unclear and confused, Dempsey provided a few strategic details, but to nearly everyone watching, Kerry contradicted himself, tripped over his own feet, and significantly undermined most of the arguments for a strike.

One of the primary motivations Kerry gave was that a strike on Syria’s chemical weapons would help keep them out the hands of terrorists. Then when asked whether Hezbollah already had chemical weapons, he said he would answer in a classified briefing scheduled the next day. As with an invocation of the Fifth Amendment, this doesn’t necessarily confirm that Hezbollah already has chemical weapons, but if they don’t it begs the question why he couldn’t have just said so. He mentioned several other sensitive details about the situation on the ground in Syria, including composition of the rebellion and our tactical assistance to them, so I don’t see how the fact that terrorists don’t have chemical weapons would be classified. That is…unless they do. And if they do, then the primary situation the strike is supposed to prevent is already the status quo.

New doubt cast on Obama’s case for war in Syria

President Barack Obama’s case for military strikes against Syria this summer was based on intelligence which found that the country’s government had used chemical weapons against its own people. He insisted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible and urged members of Congress to get behind authorization for military action.

But some security and intelligence experts have casted doubt on these claims, according to a report from McClatchy DC, because the type of rocket reportedly used in the chemical weapons attack couldn’t have been fired from the position held by the Syrian government:

[T]he authors of a report released Wednesday said that their study of the rocket’s design, its likely payload and its possible trajectories show that it would have been impossible for the rocket to have been fired from inside areas controlled by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Obama would’ve been better off not giving the Syria speech

Despite taking his case for intervention in Syria directly to the American people on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama has been unable to sway their elected representatives in Washington. Votes continue to pile up against a potential authorization of force should a diplomatic solution fail, largely because of the confused, contradictory case the White House continues to present.

President Obama insisted that intervention against Syria was in our nation interest, even though he once again said that Bashar al-Assad’s regime didn’t represent a threat to the United States. He all but said that Assad’s government used chemical weapons against its own people, even though the Obama Administration can’t prove who ordered the attack.

And while he claimed that strikes would be a deterrent against future use of chemical weapons, President Obama didn’t present any plan for what happens should the situation in Syria escalate. The speech was basically a glorified summary of everything that has been said since the end of August, with the added detail that there may now be a diplomatic solution.

Obama fails to make the case for military intervention in Syria

Barack Obama

TL;DR version: President Obama gave a speech last night rehashing the same arguments made for military strikes against Syria. He delivered the speech well, but failed to present a compelling case for intervention, specifically saying several times that Bashar al-Assad isn’t a threat to the United States. Even as he made a specious case for intervention, Obama said that he asked Congress to postpone a vote, making it a mostly pointless speech.

In a televised address last night, President Barack Obama took his case for military intervention in Syria directly to the American people, stating that Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons is a violation of international law and is a threat to the United States’ interests in the region.

President Obama started off by offering background on the civil war that has ravaged the Middle Eastern country, noting that more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

“I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Obama. “The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children.”

President Obama emphasized the treaty banning use of chemical weapons, which the United States Senate ratified in 1997. Syria, however, is one of five countries that hasn’t approved the treaty, though they now say they will.

Assad threatens retaliation for strikes, Syrian rebels depict blowing up United States Capitol

Bashar al-Assad

Supporters of President Barack Obama’s push for military intervention in Syria have been playing up Charlie Rose’s interview with Bashar al-Assad, who’s government has been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people.

During the interview, which aired in full last night, Assad denied that he had anything to do with the attack and challenged the Obama Administration to present evidence that it was his government that released the chemical agents, alleging that it was the rebels fighting his regime that are responsible for the attack.

He also spoke of consequences for the United States should go forward with the attack, telling Rose that we “should expect everything.”

“Will there be attacks against American bases in the Middle East if there’s an air strike?” asked Rose.

“You should expect everything. You should expect everything. Not necessarily through the government. The government’s not the only player in this region,” said Assad in response. “You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideologies. You have everything in this region now, so you have to expect that.”

When pressed on whether that could mean chemical attacks against Americans, Assad said, “That depends.”

“If the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it, it could happen. I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller to tell you what’s going to happen,” he added, before again warning of a takeover of Syria by Islamists who are unfriendly to the United States.

Reid delays Senate vote on Syria

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced last night that he would delay a test vote authorizing the use of military force (AUMF) against Syria due to discussions taking place between the Obama Administration and other foreign governments:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it wouldn’t be beneficial to hold the vote while international discussions continue regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

Reid says it’s not important to, quote, “see how fast we can do this.” He adds, “We have to see how well we can do this.”
[…]
The Nevada Democrat had planned a full Senate vote Wednesday. It’s unclear when that might happen now.

Delay of the vote comes as opposition to military intervention in Syria has increased in the Senate as members from both sides of the aisle are beginning to listen to constituents back home. For example, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who previously backed military strikes against Syria, decided yesterday that he would vote against intervention after receiving calls and emails from Georgians opposed to another war.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sent a letter to colleagues yesterday urging them to vote against the war against Syria.


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