The White House walk-and-talk that changed Obama’s mind on Syria

White House

President Barack Obama meets with his national security advisers in the White House Situation Room on Saturday to discuss strategy in Syria. Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is fourth from right.

By Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent

A stroll around the White House grounds with his top adviser on Friday evening changed President Barack Obama’s mind about getting Congress to sign off on a military strike in Syria, senior White House officials told NBC News.

Obama had been leaning toward attacking Syria without a congressional vote for the past week, the officials said. Obama was convinced he had the evidence to back up a strike and as a result dispatched Secretary of State John Kerry to make a passionate case for U.S. action. But only hours after Kerry called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "a thug and a murderer" and accused his regime of using chemical weapons to kill 1,429 people, Obama changed his mind as he walked across the South Lawn with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, the officials said.

NBC’s Chuck Todd describes the political process for seeking congressional authorization for a strike on Syria, and says that the president’s decision to wait on Congress is a departure from 30 years of strengthening executive branch power.

Returning from that walk, the president called his advisers in the early evening to inform them of his new decision.

The plan was immediately met with robust resistance from a whiplashed Obama team who had listened to Kerry lay out the administration’s strongest case yet for action against Assad. "My friends, it matters here if nothing is done," Kerry had argued. "It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens."

Obama’s National Security Council had believed since last weekend that requiring a vote was not even on the table and that “consultation” in the form of congressional briefings and behind-the-scenes conversation was all that would be needed before a strike. One senior official noted that no key leaders in Congress had specifically requested a vote on military intervention.

Officials said that after the president met with national security advisers on Aug. 24, they determined the evidence showed Syria’s Assad regime had used chemical weapons in an attack earlier this month. At that time, the president indicated he was leaning toward a strike.

But a growing number of Congressional members were beginning to question the administration’s strategy by the end of the week.  And an NBC News poll released Friday morning showed that nearly 80 percent of Americans agreed that the president should seek approval in advance of taking military action.

Officials said Obama also was influenced by Thursday’s lively debate in the House of Commons, where Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote in Parliament to authorize participation in an allied strike against Syria. Cameron had been a staunch advocate of military action but was chastened in the wake of the vote.  “It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action,” Cameron said.  “I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”

While Obama’s advisers argued Friday night in private that the humiliating defeat for Cameron starkly illustrated the risks of asking for congressional input, the president responded that the vote in Parliament demonstrated exactly why he should seek a vote on this side of the Atlantic, senior officials told NBC News.

And, the president insisted, seeking legislative backing was the approach most consistent with his philosophy.  While debate within the administration continued into late Friday, by Saturday morning the senior advisers acquiesced.

Speaking to the nation early Saturday afternoon, Obama said he was “mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.  I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”    

President Obama says the nation should and will take action against the Syrian government, but not without congressional approval. Watch his full speech.

The president also noted, “while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.”

White House aides said they are fairly confident that Congress will grant them the authority to launch a strike, although they maintain that Obama would be acting within his constitutional authority even if Congress rejects the authorization and Obama orders military intervention.

Congress is not scheduled to return to Washington for debate until Sept. 9. The administration decided not to call them back early due to the Jewish holidays this week, a delay that the Pentagon also signed off on, saying that the wait won’t diminish U.S. military capabilities in the region. There’s an upside to that cooling-off period too, aides said. The delay gives Obama time to make his case to Congress and to keep pushing for international support.

“Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community,” the president said Saturday.  “What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”

While the United States does not believe it needs military help in a strike, Obama will push allies for political backing when he attends the G20 summit in Russia next week.

Reaction from Congress was mostly positive in the hours after Obama detailed his position. A statement from House Speaker John Boehner other GOP leaders stated: “We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised” and noted Congress would begin debate when they return to Washington.  And House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said, "President Obama is right that the debate and authorization by Congress for action will make our country and the response in Syria stronger.”

But a key group of Syrian rebels who have been fighting the Assad regime reacted in surprise and anger to the decision.

"The death will continue in Syria because of the (failure of the) leadership of the United States to act decisively at this point," said Louay Safi, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council. "Obama had the moral responsibility (to) act and not waiver."

 

Kerry: Samples from Syria tested positive for sarin

Secretary of State John Kerry tells David Gregory on Meet the Press that evidence suggests that Syrian leader Bashar Assad used the nerve agent sarin in his chemical weapons attack.

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that samples collected by first responders after the reported August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.

"In the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States that have now been tested from first responders in east Damascus and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin," Kerry said on NBC’s Meet The Press. "So this case is building and this case will build." 

Sarin is a man-made chemical warfare agent considered the most toxic and fast-acting of its kind. The odorless, colorless nerve agent interferes with an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which controls nerve signals to the muscles.

Kerry said the use of chemical weapons puts Syrian President Bashar Assad in the same category as the world’s most bloody dictators.

"Bashar Assad now joins the list of Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein [who] have used these weapons in time of war," he said.

Kerry’s statement comes the day after President Barack Obama announced that he will seek congressional authorization for a military strike in Syria. The U.S. has said it has "high confidence" in intelligence assessments that show the chemical weapons attack that killed over 1400 people – including hundreds of children – was launched by the Syrian regime.

The former Massachusetts senator said Sunday that he believes Congress will pass a measure to authorize the use of force in Syria.

WATCH: Kerry says, ‘I don’t think Congress will turn its back on this moment’

"I don’t believe that my former colleagues in the United States Senate and the House will turn their backs on all of our interests, on the 
credibility of our country, on the norm with respect to the enforcement of the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, which has been in place since 1925," he said.

But Kerry would not say whether the president would act even if Congress votes against intervention .

"I said that the president has the authority to act, but the Congress is going to do what’s right here," he answered when pressed by NBC’s David Gregory.

In a forceful speech on Friday, Kerry called Syrian President Bashar Assad a "thug and a murderer" who turned chemical weapons on innocent people in east Damascus.

"This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons," he said. "This is what Assad did to his own people."

On Sunday, Kerry declined to describe the new evidence of Sarin use as a ‘slam dunk’ in the case against Assad, but he reiterated that the United States continues to have "high confidence" in its case against the regime.

"The word "slam-dunk" should be retired from American national security issues," he said. "We are saying that the high confidence that the intelligence community has expressed and the case that I laid out the other day is growing stronger by the day."

 

Syrian state-run daily calls Obama move a retreat

By ALBERT AJI and RYAN LUCAS

Sep 1, 7:10 AM (ET)

(AP) President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden as he makes a statement about the…
Full Image

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – A Syrian state-run newspaper on Sunday called President Barack Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval before taking military action against Syria "the start of the historic American retreat."

The gloating tone in the front-page article in the Al-Thawra daily followed Obama’s unexpected announcement on Saturday that he would ask Congress to support a strike punishing the President Bashar Assad’s regime for the alleged use of chemical weapons. The decision marked a stark turnabout for the White House, which had appeared on the verge of ordering U.S. forces to launch a missile attack against Syria.

"Whether the Congress lights the red or green light for an aggression, and whether the prospects of war have been enhanced or faded, President Obama has announced yesterday, by prevaricating or hinting, the start of the historic American retreat," Al-Thawra said.

The paper, which as a government outlet reflects regime thinking, also claimed that Obama’s reluctance to take military action stems from his "sense of implicit defeat and the disappearance of his allies." The daily said the American leader worries about limited intervention turning into "an open war has pushed him to seek Congress’ consent."

Syria’s minister for reconciliation issues, Ali Haidar, echoed that line.

"Obama has given himself a chance to take a step backward by talking about Congress’ approval and to search for other parties to participate in the attack," Haidar told The Associated Press by telephone. "In other words, he wants to keep brandishing the sword of aggression on Syria without fully giving up the idea of an attack and even without setting a definite date for the aggression."

The U.S. Navy moved warships over the past week into the eastern Mediterranean as the Obama administration considered its options. With everything in place, Obama said Saturday that he had decided the U.S. should take military action and that he believes that he has the authority as commander-in-chief to "carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization."

But he added that he believes the U.S. "will be stronger" if he takes his case to Congress for its nod of approval before taking action.

Congress is scheduled to return from a summer break on Sept. 9, and in anticipation of the coming debate, Obama challenged lawmakers to consider "what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price."

The White House has sent Congress a draft of a resolution seeking approval for a military response to "deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade" the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons going forward. The Senate will hold hearings next week so a vote can take place after Congress gets back to work.

The president’s strategy carries enormous risks to his and the nation’s credibility, which the administration has argued forcefully is on the line in Syria. Obama long ago said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that Assad would not be allowed to cross with impunity.

Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, charted a similar course last week by asking the House of Commons to support military action against Syria, only to suffer a stinging defeat.

Across the Atlantic, Obama’s choice has sparked calls for French President Francois Hollande, who has backed calls for an armed response against Syria, to seek parliamentary approval before taking military action. Hollande is not constitutionally required to do so. France’s parliament is scheduled to debate the issue Wednesday, but no vote is scheduled

For some in Syria’s opposition who had put great hope in U.S. strikes, Obama’s decision was a source of despair. For others, it was seen as simply business as usual from a country that they say has done nothing to halt the massive trauma and bloodshed gripping Syria.

"We weren’t putting too much hope in the U.S strike," said Mohammed al-Tayeb, an opposition activist in Eastern Ghouta. "America was never a friend of ours, they’re still an enemy."

In the buildup to the potential strikes, the opposition and Damascus residents say the Assad regime moved it troops and military equipment out of bases to civilian areas.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said in a statement Sunday that the army repositioned rocket launchers, artillery and other heavy weapons inside residential neighborhoods in cities nationwide.

Two Damascus residents the AP spoke with confirmed the regime troop movements. One woman said soldiers had moved into a school next to her house and she was terrified.

With U.S. strikes no longer looming, the U.N. probe into the attack has at least a week and a half to analyze samples it took during on-site investigations before the specter of military action comes yet again to the fore.

The head of the U.N. team, Swedish professor Ake Sellstrom, is to brief U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later Sunday. The group of experts collected biological and environmental samples during their visits to the rebel-held Damascus suburbs that were hit in the Aug. 21 attack.

The inspectors left Syria on Saturday and arrived in The Hague, Netherlands. The samples they collected in Syria are to be repackaged and sent to laboratories around Europe to check them for traces of poison gas. The U.N. says there is no specific timeline for when their analysis will be completed.

There are widely varying death tolls from the suspected toxic gas attack. The aid group Doctors Without Borders says at least 355 people were killed, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring groups says it has identified 502 victims by name. A U.S. intelligence assessment says the attack killed 1,429 civilians, including more than 400 children.

In Cairo, Arab League foreign ministers were to hold an emergency session Sunday evening to discuss Syria. Last week, the 22-nation bloc condemned the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus but said it does not support military action without U.N. consent.

Lucas reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Yasmine Saker in Beirut contributed to this report.

 

GOP CONGRESSMAN: Military Members Keep Telling Me To Vote No On Syria

PAUL SZOLDRA
Business Insider
September 1, 2013

After President Obama delivered a speech in the Rose Garden where he said the United States “should” strike Syria following a deadly chemical weapons attack, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) took to Twitter to dispute that claim with comments from those who would likely carry out that order.

“I’ve been hearing a lot from members of our Armed Forces,” Amash tweeted. “The message I consistently hear: Please vote no on military action against Syria.”

Now that Obama has deferred to congressional debate, a vote on striking Syria would likely come up on the week of Sep. 9. The President probably has the support of the Senate, but the vote could have some trouble in the House, as Josh Barro points out.

Since Amash’s initial tweet, he’s been retweeting comments that have been sent in from military members and veterans. Many of my own military sources have expressed reservations with action in Syria, especially following service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Untitled

 

Revealed: Britain sold nerve gas chemicals to Syria 10 months after war began

1 Sep 2013 07:21

FURIOUS politicians have demanded Prime Minister David Cameron explain why chemical export licences were granted to firms last January – 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.

Men search for survivors amid debris of collapsed buildings

Men search for survivors amid debris of collapsed buildings

REUTERS/Nour Fourat

BRITAIN allowed firms to sell chemicals to Syria capable of being used to make nerve gas, the Sunday Mail can reveal today.

Export licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride were granted months after the bloody civil war in the Middle East began.

The chemical is capable of being used to make weapons such as sarin, thought to be the nerve gas used in the attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb which killed nearly 1500 people, including 426 children, 10 days ago.

President Bashar Assad’s forces have been blamed for the attack, leading to calls for an armed response from the West.

British MPs voted against joining America in a strike. But last night, President Barack Obama said he will seek the approval of Congress to take military action.

The chemical export licences were granted by Business Secretary Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last January – 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.

They were only revoked six months later, when the European Union imposed tough sanctions on Assad’s regime.

Yesterday, politicians and anti-arms trade campaigners urged Prime Minister David Cameron to explain why the licences were granted.

Dunfermline and West Fife Labour MP Thomas Docherty, who sits on the House of Commons’ Committees on Arms Export Controls, plans to lodge Parliamentary questions tomorrow and write to Cable.

He said: “At best it has been negligent and at worst reckless to export material that could have been used to create chemical weapons.

“MPs will be horrified and furious that the UK Government has been allowing the sale of these ingredients to Syria.

“What the hell were they doing granting a licence in the first place?

“I would like to know what investigations have been carried out to establish if any of this
material exported to Syria was subsequently used in the attacks on its own people.”

The SNP’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson MP, said: “I will be raising this in Parliament as soon as possible to find out what examination the UK Government made of where these chemicals were going and what they were to be used for.

“Approving the sale of chemicals which can be converted into lethal weapons during a civil war is a very serious issue.

“We need to know who these chemicals were sold to, why they were sold, and whether the UK Government were aware that the chemicals could potentially be used for chemical weapons.

“The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria makes a full explanation around these shady deals even more important.”

A man holds the body of a dead childA man holds the body of a dead child

Reuters

Mark Bitel of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (Scotland) said: “The UK Government claims to have an ethical policy on arms exports, but when it comes down to practice the reality is very different.

“The Government is hypocritical to talk about chemical weapons if it’s granting licences to companies to export to regimes such as Syria.

“We saw David Cameron, in the wake of the Arab Spring, rushing off to the Middle East with arms companies to promote business.”

Some details emerged in July of the UK’s sale of the chemicals to Syria but the crucial dates of the exports were withheld.

The Government have refused to identify the licence holders or say whether the licences were issued to one or two companies.

The chemicals are in powder form and highly toxic. The licences specified that they should be used for making aluminium structures such as window frames.

Professor Alastair Hay, an expert in environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said: “They have a variety of industrial uses.

“But when you’re making a nerve agent, you attach a fluoride element and that’s what gives it
its toxic properties.

“Fluoride is key to making these munitions.

“Whether these elements were used by Syria to make nerve agents is something only subsequent investigation will reveal.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “The UK Government operates one of the most rigorous arms export control regimes in the world.

“An export licence would not be granted where we assess there is a clear risk the goods might be used for internal repression, provoke or prolong conflict within a country, be used aggressively against another country or risk our national security.

“When circumstances change or new information comes to light, we can – and do – revoke licences where the proposed export is no longer consistent with the criteria.”

Assad’s regime have denied blame for the nerve gas attack, saying the accusations are “full of lies”. They have pointed the finger at rebels.

UN weapons inspectors investigating the atrocity left Damascus just before dawn yesterday and crossed into Lebanon after gathering evidence for four days.

They are now travelling to the Dutch HQ of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.

It could take up to two weeks for the results of tests on samples taken from victims of the attack, as well as from water, soil and shrapnel, to be revealed.

On Thursday night, Cameron referred to a Joint Intelligence Committee report on Assad’s use of chemical weapons as he tried in vain to persuade MPs to back military action. The report said the regime had used chemical weapons at least 14 times since last year.

Russian president Vladimir Putin yesterday attacked America’s stance and urged Obama to show evidence to the UN that Assad’s regime was guilty.

Russia and Iran are Syria’s staunchest allies. The Russians have given arms and military backing to Assad during the civil war which has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Putin said it would be “utter nonsense” for Syria to provoke opponents and spark military
retaliation from the West by using chemical weapons.

But the White House, backed by the French government, remain convinced of Assad’s guilt, and Obama proposes “limited, narrow” military action to punish the regime.

He has the power to order a strike, but last night said he would seek approval from Congress.

Obama called the chemical attack “an assault on human dignity” and said: “We are prepared to strike whenever we choose.”

He added: “Our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive. It will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now.

“And I’m prepared to give that order.”

Some fear an attack on Syria will spark retaliation against US allies in the region, such
as Jordan, Turkey and Israel.

General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, described the Commons vote as a “victory for common sense and democracy”.

He added that the “drumbeat for war” had dwindled among the British public in recent days.

Naval Officer: I Didn’t Join to Fight For Al-Qaeda

Infowars.com
September 1, 2013

Unidentified naval officer opposes attack on Syria in powerful image.

 

Analysis: Putin sees chance to turn tables on Obama at G20

Russia's President Vladimir Putin looks on during a meeting with journalists in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, August 31, 2013. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

By Timothy Heritage

MOSCOW | Sun Sep 1, 2013 9:51am EDT

(Reuters) – Less than three months after Vladimir Putin was cast as a pariah over Syria at the last big meeting of world leaders, the Russian president has glimpsed a chance to turn the tables on Barack Obama.

The U.S. president’s dilemma over a military response to an alleged poison gas attack in Syriameans Obama is the one who is under more pressure going into a G20 summit in St Petersburg on Thursday and Friday.

Obama stepped back from the brink on Saturday, delaying any imminent strike to seek approval from the U.S. Congress.

Yet at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June, Putin was isolated over his backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and scowled his way through talks with Obama, who later likened him to a "bored kid in the back of the classroom".

Putin has ignored the jibe and stood his ground over Assad, dismissing Obama’s allegations that Syrian government forces carried out a chemical weapons attack on August 21.

Buoyed by growing pressure on the U.S., French and British leaders over Syria, the former KGB spy has also now hit back in comments referring ironically to Obama as a Nobel Peace laureate and portraying U.S. global policy as a failure.

"We need to remember what’s happened in the last decade, the number of times the United States has initiated armed conflicts in various parts of the world. Has it solved a single problem?" Putin asked reporters on Saturday in the city of Vladivostok.

"Afghanistan, as I said, Iraq … After all, there is no peace there, no democracy, which our partners allegedly sought," he said during a tour of Russia’s far east.

Denying as "utter nonsense" the idea that Assad’s forces would use chemical weapons when they were winning the civil war, Putin looked steely and confident.

After months of pressure to abandon Assad, he is sending a message to the West that he is ready to do battle over Syria in St Petersburg and sees an opportunity to portray the United States as the bad boy on the block.

"Of course the G20 is not a formal legal authority. It’s not a substitute for the U.N. Security Council, it can’t take decisions on the use of force. But it’s a good platform to discuss the problem. Why not take advantage of this?" he said.

"Is it in the United States’ interests once again to destroy the international security system, the fundamentals of international law? Will it strengthen the United States’ international standing? Hardly," he said.

PUTIN’S GRANDSTANDING

There was an element of grandstanding in Putin’s first public comments on the dispute over the poison gas which killed hundreds of people in areas held by Syrian rebels.

One of his aims is to deflect criticism at this week’s meeting of the 20 developed and emerging powers, including all five permanent members of the Security Council, at which Syria is likely to overshadow talks on the global economy.

Putin also seems intent on taking a swipe at Obama, who pulled out of a Russia-U.S. summit that was planned for this week after Moscow defied Washington by granting former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden a year’s asylum.

Putin still risks facing criticism over a law banning "gay propaganda" at the summit, and is accused abroad of clamping down on the opposition to reassert his authority following the biggest protests since he was first elected president in 2000.

But the tension over possible military strikes on Syria has ensured Obama has been the focus of world attention, rather than Putin, in the run-up to the G20 – which will consider issues such as economic growth, unemployment and financial regulation.

There has been no repeat of the sentiment expressed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the eve of the G8 summit. Upset by Russia’s position on Syria, he said the G8 group of industrialized countries was in reality the "G7 plus one".

Any hopes in the West that Russia would shift stance because of the use of chemical weapons now look to have been frustrated.

Russian officials have reiterated that Moscow, an important arms supplier to Assad, has the right to deliver such weapons and that their sale does not break international law.

Moscow, which has blocked earlier efforts at the United Nations Security Council to condemn Assad and tighten sanctions on his government, has also made clear it is not about to support moves against Damascus at the United Nations.

Putin says the attack may have been a provocation by rebels fighting Assad, intended to hasten U.S. military intervention, and has used criticism of Washington over Syria to whip up anti-American sentiment and shore up support among Russian voters.

"From Russian officials and certainly the Russian media, there continue to be allegations that the United States has an agenda focused on regime change (in Syria), that the United States is driving tumult in the Middle East for its own ends," a senior U.S. administration official in Washington said.

"There is also a cynical element where anti-Americanism has been successful to rally public opinion."

PUTIN EMBOLDENED

Putin, in fact, seems emboldened as Obama’s problems pile up and some of his allies face difficulties over Syria.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure after parliament refused to back military action and Obama’s decision to seek Congress’ approval for strikes has put French President Francois Hollande under pressure to let deputies have a say.

Putin said the British parliamentary vote last Thursday was a sign that even people in countries closely allied to the United States were drawing conclusions from what he depicted as Washington’s foreign policy mistakes.

"Even there, there are people who are guided by national interests and common sense, people who value their sovereignty," Putin said.

Any prospect of "shaming" Putin into a change of tack over Syria is also increasingly seen abroad as unlikely to work.

"I don’t get the sense that Russia is overly concerned about its international image in this regard," said the senior U.S. administration official. "It takes pride in being independent … Russia is not timid or bashful when it comes to Syria support."

(Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly and Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Denis Dyomkin in Vladivostok and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; editing by David Stamp)

 

Paul: ’50/50′ chance that House will vote down Syria authorization

Sun Sep 1, 2013 10:35 AM EDT

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News

A leading skeptic of U.S. intervention in conflicts abroad said Sunday that he believes there is only a "50/50" chance that the GOP-controlled House will vote to authorize the use of U.S military force in the Syria.

"I think it’s at least 50/50 whether the House will vote down involvement in the Syrian war," Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

"I think the Senate will rubber stamp what [Obama] wants but I think the House will be a much closer vote," he added. "And there are a lot of questions we have to ask."

Paul, a staunch defender of civil liberties who has battled against members of his own party over the government’s use of drones and NSA data collection programs, said he believes it’s a "mistake" to get involved in a civil war in Syria that could escalate "out of control."

But he praised President Barack Obama’s announcement Saturday that he will seek congressional authority for military intervention in the civil war-torn country.

Other influential GOP leaders also indicated Sunday that Obama may lose the vote.

"“I think it is going to be difficult to get the vote through in Congress, especially when there’s going to be time over the next nine days for opposition to build up to it,” said New York Rep. Peter King on Fox News Sunday. King, who sharply criticized Obama on Friday for "abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief" for seeking congressional authorization, said Congress would "probably" reject authorization if the vote was held today.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also said he does not believe Congress will authorize the strike. 

But the Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee said he believes the authorization will ultimately pass.

"I think at the end of the day, Congress will rise to the occasion,”  Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan said on CNN. “This is a national security issue. This isn’t about Barack Obama versus the Congress. This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he believes Congress will vote to authorize military action, but he would not say if the president will act regardless of the outcome of the debate on Capitol HIll.

"I said that the president has the authority to act, but the Congress is going to do what’s right here," he said.

Shortly after Kerry’s appearance on the program, Paul shot back at Kerry, a decorated war veteran who became an outspoken critic of Vietnam War after serving in that conflict.

"I see a young John Kerry who went to war, and I wish he remembered more of how awful war is and that it shouldn’t be a desired outcome," Paul said.

 

Video: Salon Attacks Ron Paul, Infowars for Calling Out Syrian False Flag Attack

Anthony Gucciardi
Storyleak
September 1, 2013

Salon has gone on the offensive against Ron Paul and other ‘conspiracy-prone’ thinkers following an article that revealed the former Congressman had labeled the Syrian chemical attacks as a ‘false flag’ initiative to launch war.

A notion that a large number of prominent figures are now confirming and re-iterating, showing just how behind the tired mainstream media truly is. In fact, it seems like there is only a very tiny minority in the nation that actually trusts the lies spewed forth from Mr. ‘WMD’ Kerry and his false claims about the chemical attacks. This, of course, coincides with the reality that only 9 percent of Americans currently support a war effort against Syria.

And it seems the establishment is very upset that staged chemical attacks cannot change that figure among the overwhelming evidence.

But don’t take my word for it. In fact, don’t even take Ron Paul’s word for it. As it turns out, more than a few prominent individuals have gone on record in stating that the chemical attacks were initiated by the Obama-backed Syrian rebels in order to start a war. Even three-time presidential adviser Pat Buchanan has gone on air in saying that the whole event ‘reeks of a false flag’ operation to launch full-scale war against Syria and Assad.

Buchanan, of course, must be a ‘conspiracy theorist’ kook according to Salon. And by that logic, anyone with a single brain cell and the capacity to read the news is now a conspiracy theorist. This therefore includes Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who recently told journalists:

“That is why I am convinced that [the chemical attack] is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States.”

What a conspiracy theorist, huh?

Even mega news organizations like The Independent are asking why Obama has sided with al-Qaeda, and the rebels have actually now taken full credit for the chemical attacks. Add in the fact that Obama has been secretly supporting the Syrian rebels who behead Christians and burn down villages since 2011under ‘secret orders’ reported by Reuters, and you begin to realize the true kooks are the ones who continue to follow this mad man and his handlers.

After classified briefing, lawmakers skeptical on Syria attack

By Ed O’Keefe and Paul Kane, Published: September 1 at 4:37 pm

The Obama administration’s request for U.S. military intervention in Syria would not pass the Congress as written because it is too broad, a senior senator said Sunday after a classified briefing on the situation.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the dean of the Senate, told reporters after the meeting that the resolution seeking military force is “too open ended” as written. “I know it will be amended in the Senate,” he said.

Leahy’s comments echoed the views of dozens of lawmakers who left the briefing and said they want to see the resolution more closely resemble President Obama’s own pledge that any strike be limited in scope.

“The president’s request is open-ended,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “That has to be rectified, and they simply said in answer to that that they would work with the Congress and try to come back with a more prescribed resolution. But I’m not too sure that the people who answered that are the people that have that decision to make.”

The briefing, held in the expansive Congressional Auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center, crossed the two-hour mark shortly after 4 p.m. Some lawmakers exited the meeting in a rush to get to airports for flights home, but dozens remained inside the hall.

A quartet of administration officials, led by Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, presented evidence of the alleged chemical attack and then turned over the meeting to questions, alternating between Democrats and Republicans.

Lawmakers from both parties said there was widespread agreement with the evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime carried out the chemical attacks — but still doubt about whether U.S. military strikes would achieve a meaningful result.

“The evidence at this point is overwhelming,” Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who led the push to force a congressional vote on military intervention, said “80 percent” of the skeptics in the room doubted that a limited strike would achieve any clear result and might instead lead to bad consequences. “There is more a question of,” he said, “is this the right approach?”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the fourth-ranking House Republican, said lawmakers in the meeting expressed concern about “how limited and how focused any kind of a potential military action would be. I think they’re seeking clarification about what exactly the president is proposing. There are concerns about the resolution being too broad.”

“Members are becoming more informed and they’re asking questions and that’s all part of the decision,” she said.

As head of the House GOP Conference, McMorris Rodgers potentially holds sway over several potential Republican votes. But she said she remains undecided.

“It’s a difficult decision,” she said. “I have a lot of concerns. I’m skeptical, but I’m going to listen and continue to learn.”

Lawmakers who exited the briefing early also expressed skepticism about the presentation, saying they expect to hear more from the Obama administration in the coming days.

“There’s more reading to do and that will happen over the course of the week,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who said he was still undecided on how he would vote.

So is Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who said that, “I’m just not sure the case has been clearly made.”

Quigley, DesJarlais and others canceled weekend plans and made quick arrangements for flights to Washington, but also planned to race home Sunday night.

“It’s a pretty important issue, so I don’t mind” coming back, DesJarlais said.

Many said they were eager to come back to Washington to review classified documents made available to them and also attend the in-person briefing.

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) said he would wait to review reports by United Nations inspectors on the ground in Syria before making a decision. But he’s also worried that Obama might still strike Syria even if Congress rejects a use of force resolution.

“It’s interesting that the president hasn’t made Congress relevant at all in his administration until now. So if we don’t approve it he might consider us irrelevant again and do what he wants to do,” Ross said.

Others, like Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), emerged to say the briefing had helped them decide how to proceed in the coming days. “It was certainly instructive, as classified briefings always are,” she said.

“I’m glad I read the documents, it was worth the trip,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “I haven’t really made up my mind. I’m not trying to be a wise guy, I just haven’t.”

Pascrell said he sensed that colleagues in both parties and chambers seemed to appreciate the seriousness of the decision they face in the coming weeks.

“People are coming in from all over the place, I’m from Jersey, I’m only three hours away,” he said. “California is another story.”

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Follow Paul Kane on Twitter: @pkcapitol

 

And Now, It’s Golfing Time (Or Putin +1, Obama 0)

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/31/2013 17:00 -0400

After bringing the world to the edge of WWIII and nearly giving the first order to launch the ironically named Patriot missile, then dramatically punting in the very last second whether to invade Syria to Congress, something he should have done from the every beginning, Obama went on to do what he does best.

Politico explains:

Right after shipping responsibility for authorizing an attack on Syria, President Barack Obama returned to his comfort zone: The golf course.

Obama’s motorcade left the White House at 2:30 p.m., about 30 minutes after completing his statement.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are playing at Fort Belvoir, Va., along with White House trip director Marvin Nicholson and Walter Nicholson, according to the White House.

And so after last month’s Snowden humiliation, Russia’s Putin just schooled the US golfer-in-chief again. Although, was there ever any doubt?

The Russian president:

Action man: Vladimir Putin is often pictured partaking in various sporting activities - often topless - such as horse riding in southern Siberia's Tuva region

Topless: Russia's president Vladimir Putin went topless during a fishing trip to a national nature reserve in Tuva, Russia

Topless: Russia's president Vladimir Putin went topless during a fishing trip to a national nature reserve in Tuva, Russia

He landed a 21kg pike on a trip to Siberia.

Russia's president Putin with binoculars on the vacation

Reindeer me! Putin was also introduced to some local reindeer when he reached dry land

Active: Vladimir Putin swimming in a lake in southern Siberia's Tuva region

Versatile: Vladimir Putin plays the piano at a charity concert for children suffering from eye diseases and cancer in St. Petersburg

Animal lover: Putin flew a hang-glider following his 2012 election win to shepherd a flock of cranes on their migratory route

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin holding a pistol during his visit to a newly-built headquarters of the Russian General Staff's Main Intelligence Department (GRU) in Moscow.

Need for speed: Vladimir Putin driving a Renault Formula One car on a special racing track in the Leningrad region outside St. Petersburg

* * *

… And the American:

A picture is worth 1,000 words: The teleprompter has two faces

And much, much, much more

After classified briefing, lawmakers skeptical on Syria attack

By Ed O’Keefe and Paul Kane, Published: September 1 at 4:37 pm

The Obama administration’s request for U.S. military intervention in Syria would not pass the Congress as written because it is too broad, a senior senator said Sunday after a classified briefing on the situation.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the dean of the Senate, told reporters after the meeting that the resolution seeking military force is “too open ended” as written. “I know it will be amended in the Senate,” he said.

Leahy’s comments echoed the views of dozens of lawmakers who left the briefing and said they want to see the resolution more closely resemble President Obama’s own pledge that any strike be limited in scope.

“The president’s request is open-ended,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “That has to be rectified, and they simply said in answer to that that they would work with the Congress and try to come back with a more prescribed resolution. But I’m not too sure that the people who answered that are the people that have that decision to make.”

The briefing, held in the expansive Congressional Auditorium of the Capitol Visitors Center, crossed the two-hour mark shortly after 4 p.m. Some lawmakers exited the meeting in a rush to get to airports for flights home, but dozens remained inside the hall.

A quartet of administration officials, led by Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, presented evidence of the alleged chemical attack and then turned over the meeting to questions, alternating between Democrats and Republicans.

Lawmakers from both parties said there was widespread agreement with the evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime carried out the chemical attacks — but still doubt about whether U.S. military strikes would achieve a meaningful result.

“The evidence at this point is overwhelming,” Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who led the push to force a congressional vote on military intervention, said “80 percent” of the skeptics in the room doubted that a limited strike would achieve any clear result and might instead lead to bad consequences. “There is more a question of,” he said, “is this the right approach?”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the fourth-ranking House Republican, said lawmakers in the meeting expressed concern about “how limited and how focused any kind of a potential military action would be. I think they’re seeking clarification about what exactly the president is proposing. There are concerns about the resolution being too broad.”

“Members are becoming more informed and they’re asking questions and that’s all part of the decision,” she said.

As head of the House GOP Conference, McMorris Rodgers potentially holds sway over several potential Republican votes. But she said she remains undecided.

“It’s a difficult decision,” she said. “I have a lot of concerns. I’m skeptical, but I’m going to listen and continue to learn.”

Lawmakers who exited the briefing early also expressed skepticism about the presentation, saying they expect to hear more from the Obama administration in the coming days.

“There’s more reading to do and that will happen over the course of the week,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who said he was still undecided on how he would vote.

So is Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who said that, “I’m just not sure the case has been clearly made.”

Quigley, DesJarlais and others canceled weekend plans and made quick arrangements for flights to Washington, but also planned to race home Sunday night.

“It’s a pretty important issue, so I don’t mind” coming back, DesJarlais said.

Many said they were eager to come back to Washington to review classified documents made available to them and also attend the in-person briefing.

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) said he would wait to review reports by United Nations inspectors on the ground in Syria before making a decision. But he’s also worried that Obama might still strike Syria even if Congress rejects a use of force resolution.

“It’s interesting that the president hasn’t made Congress relevant at all in his administration until now. So if we don’t approve it he might consider us irrelevant again and do what he wants to do,” Ross said.

Others, like Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), emerged to say the briefing had helped them decide how to proceed in the coming days. “It was certainly instructive, as classified briefings always are,” she said.

“I’m glad I read the documents, it was worth the trip,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “I haven’t really made up my mind. I’m not trying to be a wise guy, I just haven’t.”

Pascrell said he sensed that colleagues in both parties and chambers seemed to appreciate the seriousness of the decision they face in the coming weeks.

“People are coming in from all over the place, I’m from Jersey, I’m only three hours away,” he said. “California is another story.”

 

Syria opposition says Assad deploying human shields for air strikes

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (centre-R) meets Alaeddin Boroujerdi, (centre-L) head of the Iranian parliamentary committee for national security and foreign policy, and his delegation, in Damascus September 1, 2013 in this handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

ISTANBUL | Sun Sep 1, 2013 3:51pm EDT

(Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has moved military equipment and personnel to civilian areas and put prisoners in military sites as human shields against any Western air strikes, the opposition said on Sunday.

The Istanbul-based opposition coalition said rockets, Scud missiles and launchers as well as soldiers had been moved to locations including schools, university dormitories and government buildings inside cities.

"Reports from inside Syria confirm that Assad has (also)ordered detainees to be moved to military targets and to be used as human shields against possible Western air strikes," the opposition coalition said in a statement.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports, and attempts to reach Syrian officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Ex-soldiers told Reuters last week that military sites in Syria were being packed with soldiers who had been effectively imprisoned by their superiors over doubts about their loyalty, making them possible casualties in any U.S.-led air strikes.

Thousands of loyal security forces and militia, meanwhile, have moved into schools and residential buildings in Damascus, mixing with the civilian population in the hope of escaping a Western strike, residents say.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday he would seek congressional consent before taking action against Damascus for its apparent use of chemical weapons, a move likely to delay an attack for at least 10 days.

Critics say the delay is simply buying Assad more time.

The opposition coalition earlier called on the U.S. Congress to back a military intervention and said international inaction during the conflict, now in its third year, had emboldened Assad and allowed the violence to escalate.

(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Jon Boyle)

 

Pressure on Cameron for new vote on Syria strikes

David Cameron is under increasing pressure to return to Parliament for another vote on British military action against Syria after the Americans postponed missile strikes for at least a week.

David Cameron arrives at Downing St after cutting short his holiday

Last week the Prime Minister cut short his holiday and returned to Downing Street because of the situation in Syria. This week he will be under increasing pressure to return to Parliament for another vote on British military action. Photo: REUTERS

By Robert Winnett and Peter Dominiczak

10:00PM BST 01 Sep 2013

Lord Howard, a former Conservative leader, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Foreign Secretary, and Lord Ashdown, a former Liberal Democrat leader, led calls to vote again on Sunday.

Sir Malcolm, the chairman of the intelligence and security committee, said the situation has “moved on dramatically now” and that the evidence is “becoming more compelling every day”.

In his Daily Telegraph column on Monday, Boris Johnson, the London mayor, also suggests another motion could be put “inviting British participation”. Mr Johnson, who has been highly sceptical of intervening in Syria, believes that Parliament has helped the international community by allowing a delay in the action for further evidence to be collected.

Signs of Labour disagreements over Ed Miliband’s response to the Syrian crisis were also beginning to emerge on Sunday.

Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, became the first senior Labour figure to admit that the case against the Assad regime over last month’s chemical weapons attack was not in doubt.

Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour Cabinet minister, suggested he would now support a second Parliamentary vote being called.

George Osborne and William Hague, Mr Cameron’s two most senior Cabinet colleagues, on Sunday appeared to rule out a second vote on Syrian action.

However, Mr Hague, the Foreign Secretary, laid out a series of conditions which would have to be met before action could be reconsidered – primarily involving Mr Miliband offering to cooperate. He also warned that if Bashar al-Assad is not confronted now it would lead ultimately to a “confrontation [which] will only be bigger and more painful.”

Since last Thursday, when MPs rejected government backing for potential military action against Syria by just 13 votes, the US administration has released detailed intelligence on Assad’s alleged involvement in a chemical weapons attack on a suburb of Damascus. A report from UN weapons inspectors is also imminent and on Sunday a new intelligence report from France suggested that Assad had amassed 1,000 tons of chemical weapons.

On Sunday, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said his government had now concluded that sarin gas was used in the attack, which killed 1,429 people including 426 children. The Americans set out detailed intelligence on the attack, including information about where the missiles had been fired from, telephone intercepts and other “evidence”. This compares with an overall conclusion from British intelligence last week that the Syrian leader was “highly likely” to have been responsible.

Assad said he would “confront any external aggression”.

The US government had been expected to launch cruise missile strikes over the weekend but President Obama said on Saturday that he would now be seeking the support of the US Congress, in a vote which will not happen before next week.

The revised US timetable and the emerging intelligence has led to calls from some of Britain’s most senior politicians for Parliament to be given another vote.

Many observers believe that Mr Cameron unnecessarily rushed last week’s vote without properly detailing the case for action. Dozens of MPs were away on holiday and unable to vote. A Labour “road map” plan for action was also defeated.

On Sunday, Lord Howard said: “I think Parliament, or at least the Opposition in Parliament, last week got itself into something of a muddle.” He said he hoped the US President’s speech “will give Parliament an opportunity to think again and to come to a different conclusion”. Sir Malcolm Rifkind also backed such a prospect. “A lot of MPs, including Mr Miliband and his colleagues who voted against last Thursday, did so because they said it was premature,” he said.

“And he and our Prime Minister ought to get together and say, if we can now agree the evidence is compelling then Parliament ought to have the opportunity to debate the matter again.”

Lord Ashdown told the BBC that parliament could “reconsider its position”.

Mr Osborne said he did not believe that more evidence or the conclusion of the UN work in Syria would win over MPs. “Parliament has spoken,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme. Mr Hague also said he could not envisage the circumstances of Parliament overturning its objections.

But he added: “I think anybody looking at this objectively would see that in order for Parliament in any circumstances to come to a different conclusion then people would have to be more persuaded by the evidence …

“And the Labour leadership would have to play a less partisan and less opportunistic role and be prepared to take ‘yes’ for an answer in terms of the motion that we present to the House of Commons.”

Colonel Bob Stewart, a Conservative MP and former UN Commander in Bosnia, said on Sunday night: “I don’t see how we [Parliament] can’t discuss it again.”

Advertisements