US Makes Case for Syria Attack

The U.S. government laid out its arguments for a response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but pledged that any operations will not resemble the drawn out Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged there are risks to acting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but said the risks of not acting are greater. No action, he said, could embolden other countries to build and use chemical and nuclear weapons, such as Iran and North Korea.

As Kerry spoke Friday afternoon, the White House released an unclassified report, saying the U.S.  intelligence community has "high confidence" that Assad's government used chemical weapons on August 21 against civilians in several Damascus suburbs.

The report says 1,429 people died in the attack, at least 426 of them children. It based the numbers on numerous sources, including witnesses, social media reports and Syrian and international medical personnel.

The report rejects the Syrian government's allegations that the attacks were the work of rebels. It says rockets and artillery shells carried the toxic gases to neighborhoods held by rebel forces. The U.S. government says the rebels do not have those types of heavy arms.

The U.S. also says its intelligence indicates that Syrian chemical weapons forces prepared the weapons before the attack. In the days beforehand, the U.S. "collected streams of intelligence" linked to preparations for an attack.

Struggle for support

With the release of an intelligence summary on the chemical weapons attack in Syria, the White House pushed forward on its effort to build support at home and abroad for a military strike on the Damascus government.

Many U.S. voters and several members of Congress remain skeptical about the need for any U.S. involvement in Syria. That sentiment is shared in other parts of the world.

Britain's lower house of Parliament rejected a motion for British participation in a military strike. The non-binding vote is a setback to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who told lawmakers a strike would be a response to a war crime, not an attempt to topple the Syrian government.

Germany, another U.S. ally, says it will not take part in a military action, although the government has not opposed such an action.

However, U.S. ally France remains committed to a "firm and proportionate action" in response to that attack.

Despite limited promises of part in an attack, there is considerable international condemnation for what appears to have been a chemical attack on the 21st.

U.S. lawmakers seek clarity

On Thursday, Kerry and other top administration officials gave a briefing on Syria to members of Congress.  Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have asked the White House for the legal justification for a military strike and its objectives. Several have demanded that the administration seek a congressional vote before any military operation.

In his speech Friday, Kerry acknowledged that after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans are tired of conflict.

"But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency. These things, we do know," he said.

U.N. inspectors winding down Syria probe

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world powers to hold off on possible military action until a U.N. chemical weapons inspection team completes its work in the country.

The inspectors began leaving Syria on Friday and some are expected to meet with Mr. Ban in the next few days.

Secretary of State Kerry, however, made clear the United States has little hope for U.N. authorization for a military strike.

"And because of the guaranteed Russian obstructionism of any action through the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. cannot galvanize the world to act, as it should," Kerry said.

Russia has blocked previous attempts at the U.N. to impose sanctions on President Assad’s government.  That has led to frustration for the U.S. and its European allies.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief foreign policy aide said the vote in the British Parliament against joining a military operation against Syria, shows that "people are beginning to understand" the dangers of a military strike.

Kerry said despite Russia's opposition, "We will continue talking to the Congress, talking to our allies and, most importantly, talking to the American people. President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines based on our values and our interests."

U.S. Government's Assessment

  • High confidence the Syrian government used a nerve agent in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21, 2013
  • 1,429 people were killed, including 426 children
  • Highly unlikely that the Syrian opposition carried out the chemical attack

U.S. Report on the Attack

  • Assad regime carried out a rocket and artillery attack on the Damascus suburbs early on Aug. 21
  • Thousands of reports on the attack appeared in social media
  • Nearby hospitals received 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure
  • Hundreds of videos attributed to the attack show bodies with signs consistent with nerve agent exposure
  • Syrian opposition does not have the means to fabricate the videos and other information related to the attack
  • Intercepted communications involving senior Assad official who confirmed chemical weapons were used in the attack
Source: U.S. Government

fuente: La Voz de América,


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