Posted August 31, 2013 by josephwouk
After days of deliberations, US president updates public on his thinking ahead of widely anticipated strike at the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons
US President Barack Obama has spoken in the White House Rose Garden to update the public about his decisions on how to proceed regarding Syria. The key message: He’s made up his mind to strike at the Assad regime, but will seek authorization from Congress.
Hello every one. How are we doing? No war, no military action, business as usual in Syria – I mean, every one is getting his daily poisoned gas doze – no coalition and no president of the US.
But its ok, brothers. We thought he might run. Obama is who he is. Lets talk about us, what we – W E – can do in this situation. There is nobody to trust, there is nobody who will have our back.
The Iranian issue should be dealt with a long time ago. Its not Syria who is fighting in Syria, its Iran fighting in Syria. Its not Hezbollah fighting in Lebanon, its the Shiite Division Arm Corp of Iran, fighting in Lebanon and Syria. And now, Obama is getting – too late – the big picture: no military action can be taken in the middle east and hoping not meet the Iranians on the battlefield. Iran has its hands involved in everything in the region and this region is infested by them, entirely.
He who is fleeing from dealing with a certain war situation in time, will get that war in full face, later. That what has just happened. And no justification will save the situation for Obama. Not even running to the Congress.
Instant analysis: Obama has shown he doesn’t want to act
Israeli pundits’ immediate response is that Obama is taking a political chance, and could find himself defeated — David Cameron-style — in a Congressional vote.
Britain’s Sky news says “this wouldn’t have happened” were it not for Cameron’s defeat on a pro-strike vote in the House of Commons on Thursday. “He felt very isolated” and he’s been told by his military chiefs that so much could go wrong.
Certainly, now, there is no prospect of an attack in the next few days.
Arab affairs analyst Ehud Yaari says he’s basically asking Congress to help him down from the tree — that he’s shown he has no desire to strike.
‘We must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus’
I don’t expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made, Obama says.
He says to the American people that he knows they are weary of war after Iraq and Afghanistan. He adds that the US can’t resolve the Syrian civil war. That’s why US troops won’t go there.
“But we are the United States of America. We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.”
So he asks all members of Congress “to take this vote for our national security.” So put aside partisan politics. “It’s about who we are as a country.”
“Now is the time to show the world” that we uphold our commitments… that right makes might, not the other way around… We cannot turn away” from this massacre.
“I am ready to act in the face of this outrage,” he says, and urges Congress to show it is ready to do the same.
I don’t need US approval
The president says he is “comfortable” proceeding without UN approval.
He says he believes he has the authority to act without Congress’s okay, but believes in the strength of winning Congressional approval.
“I respect the views of those who call for caution,” he says. But “we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing… What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight, and pay no price.”
How will we stop others — governments that would build nuclear arms — he asks, if we do not follow through “on the values that define us.”
Obama: I will seek authorization from Congress
We have the necessary assets in the region, says Obama, and can strike whenever we choose.
“But having made my decision… based on what I am convinced are our national security interests,” Obama says he has made “a second decision” — to seek authorization from Congress.
In other words, the strike is several days off, at least.
Obama speaks of terrible images of the dead
He begins by restating the conviction that the Assad regime was behind the August 21 chemical weapons attack. “Well over 1,000 people were murdered.”
He calls attack an assault on human dignity, and a danger to national security.
“It endangers our friends… including Israel.”
“This menace must be confronted… The US should take military action against regime targets.”
Israeli TV speculation: Attack between tonight and Tuesday
Israel’s Channel 2 news speculates that the US will indeed attack, and that the strike will come between tonight and Tuesday night. It notes that, after that, President Obama is set to head to Sweden. (Incidentally, he’s scheduled to visit a synagogue in Stockholm for Rosh Hashana.)
Reports from Washington say that Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, Defense Secretary Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey are at the White House.
Security briefing for Israeli cabinet tomorrow
The chief of the IDF General Staff, Benny Gantz, and other security chiefs are to brief the Israeli cabinet at its weekly meeting tomorrow on the Syria situation.
Israeli officials remain convinced that Assad would not strike at Israel in the wake of a US-led attack, despite lots of threats to Israel from both Syria and Iran.
Israel is said to have completed its deployment of Iron Dome, Patriot and other missile defense systems ahead of any attack. Crowds are anticipated at gas mask distribution centers tomorrow, but there are no plans to open more centers, despite the large numbers of Israelis converging on the centers in the past few days.
Assad said to be in a bunker
Earlier tonight, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Assad is already in a bunker, awaiting the US strike, expecting to emerge relatively unscathed, and claim victory.
The TV report also said Assad has sent his family to safe places.
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma (photo credit: AP Photo/Michel Spingler/File)
In the past few days, he has been overseeing the evacuations of military command centers, ordering the relocation of sensitive equipment, and doing his utmost to minimize the damage of the looming US attack. Some forces and equipment have been moved to school and university campuses, including the campus of Homs University, the report said.
The movement of personnel away from likely targets was actually good for the US, a former Israeli army intelligence chief said, since it would likely reduce the casualty toll, and it would also reduce Assad’s incentive to retaliate.
If the US attack is not too devastating, Assad will emerge from the bunker “and say ‘I’ve won,’” said Gen. (ret.) Aharon Zeevi Farkash. “He’ll say ‘I stood up to [the US]. Now I can continue fighting the rebels.’”
One target Assad cannot move, and that is very likely to be attacked, Farkash said, is the SSRC, the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Damascus, at the heart of Assad’s chemical weapons industry.
Key airports would likely be among the US targets, Farkash added.
Farkash predicted a US strike involving about 100 Tomahawk missiles.
President behind schedule; UN inspectors in Amsterdam
Obama’s briefing is half-an-hour behind schedule.
Earlier today, AP reported, Obama’s top national security advisers gathered at the White House, and Syrian television broadcast scenes of fighter jets, tanks and troops in training, flip sides of a countdown to a likely US military strike meant to punish Assad’s government for the alleged use of chemical weapons.
A White House official said Obama’s remarks would not be about an imminent military operation in Syria, but rather would update the public about his decisions on how to proceed.
Earlier Saturday, UN inspectors arrived in Amsterdam after spending several days in Syria collecting soil samples and interviewing victims of an attack last week in the Damascus suburbs. Officials said it could be more than a week before their final report is complete.
It seemed unlikely Obama would wait that long to order any strike, given the flotilla of US warships equipped with cruise missiles and massed in the Mediterranean; Friday’s release of a declassified US intelligence assessment saying Assad’s chemical weapons killed 1,429 civilians; and an intensifying round of briefings for lawmakers clamoring for information.
The president said Friday that he was considering “limited and narrow” steps to punish Assad for the attack, adding that U.S. national security interests were at stake. He pledged no US combat troops on the ground in Syria, where a civil war has claimed more than 100,000 civilian lives.
With Obama struggling to gain international backing for a strike, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged him to reconsider his plans, saying he was speaking to him not as a president but as the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.
“We have to remember what has happened in the last decades, how many times the United States has been the initiator of armed conflict in different regions of the world, said Putin, a strong ally of Assad. “Did this resolve even one problem?”
President set to address the public day after Kerry’s speech
A day after his Secretary of State, John Kerry, insisted that the US knew that Syria’s President Bashar Assad was behind last Wednesday’s chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, and that 1,429 Syrians were killed, President Barack Obama is about to address the American public.
Kerry set out passionate reasons why the US administration had to hold Assad to account. But Obama insisted later Friday that he had yet to make a decision on how to respond.