U.S. points finger at Assad over Syria gas attack

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:19pm EDT

United States Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the media on the Syrian situation in Washington August 26, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

United States Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the media on the Syrian situation in Washington August 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry laid the groundwork on Monday for possible military action against the Syrian government over a chemical weapons attack, implicating President Bashar al-Assad's forces in a "moral obscenity."

In the most forceful U.S. reaction yet to last week's gas attack outside Damascus, Kerry said President Barack Obama "believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people."

Kerry spoke after U.N. chemical weapons experts interviewed and took blood samples from victims of the attack in a rebel-held suburb of Syria's capital, after the inspectors themselves survived sniper fire that hit their convoy.

"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world," Kerry told reporters. "Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity."

Kerry's tough language marked an increased effort by the administration not only to point the finger at Assad's government but to prepare the war-weary American public for a potential military response.

He accused the Syrian rulers of acting like they had something to hide by blocking the U.N. inspectors' visit to the scene for days and shelling the area.

"Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime, but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up," Kerry said.

Information gathered so far, including videos and accounts from the ground, indicate that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was "undeniable," Kerry said, adding that it was the Syrian government that maintained custody of the weapons and had the rockets capable of delivering them.


There were mounting signs that the United States and Western allies were edging closer to a military response over the incident, which took place a year after Obama declared the use of chemical weapons a "red line" that would require strong action.

Obama, who withdrew troops from Iraq and is winding down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, has been reluctant to intervene in two and a half years of civil war in Syria.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Saturday showed about 60 percent of Americans opposed U.S. military intervention, while only 9 percent thought Obama should act.

However, with his international credibility seen increasingly on the line, Obama could opt for limited measures such as cruise missile strikes to punish Assad and seek to deter further chemical attacks, without dragging Washington deeper into the war.

The United States has started a naval buildup in the region to be ready for Obama's decision, and an administration official said Obama's aides were continuing a series of high-level meetings to determine a course of action.

Kerry stopped short of explicitly blaming the Syrian government for the gas attack but strongly implied that no one else could have been behind it and said the United States had "additional information it would provide in the days ahead.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was "very little doubt" that the Syrian government was to blame but that Obama had not yet decided how to respond.

The administration has not set a timeline for responding but officials are preparing options for Obama with a sense of urgency, the State Department said.

Kerry said the administration, which has reached out to foreign allies to coordinate a response, was "actively consulting" members of Congress, though some lawmakers said they had not been fully informed. Republicans in particular have long pressed Obama to act more forcefully against Assad.

A spokesman for John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, said Boehner had not been consulted before he had "preliminary communication" with the White House about the situation in Syria on Monday afternoon. Boehner told the White House it must present "clearly defined objectives."

A U.S. security source said that as of Monday, Washington and its allies still did not have conclusive scientific evidence that the attack involved chemical weapons, and that such proof could take days or weeks to gather.

But sources said while the evidence may be "circumstantial," U.S. intelligence has "high confidence" that chemical weapons were used by Assad's forces.

"Intelligence agencies are still analyzing data and information related to the attack and are preparing a final assessment for the president," an intelligence official said.

(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert, Susan Cornwell, Tabassum Zakaria, Mark Hosenball, Steve Holland, Jeff Mason, Mark Felsenthal and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Alistair Bell and Christopher Wilson)

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Comments (7)
timeforus wrote:
hmmmm……SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL before the United Nations in a prelude to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003: ………”One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq’s biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents. Let me take you inside that intelligence file and share with you what we know from eyewitness accounts. We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.” ~~~~~~~ Powell went on to claim that Iraq had between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons. But there were no chemical or biological weapons or production facilities. The warmongers have been trying to get the USA into another war since Libya.

Aug 26, 2013 10:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Reuters1945 wrote:
“U.S. points finger at Assad over Syria gas attack”

In any just world, there would be a three inch thick, Bullet Proof MIRROR, squarely positioned immediately in front of that pointing, American finger, thus reflecting that accusing finger straight back at the U.S.

The following will come as a shock to the brain of many people who still cannot bring themselves to believe that those in the US who accuse others of evil acts, are not capable of and would never participate in Evil acts themselves.

Better fasten your safety belts before reading the following information.

An Exclusive “Foreign Policy”- FP- report just released reveals that CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam Hussein as he Gassed Iran.
As reported by Shane Harris and Mathew M. Aid :

“The U.S. knew Hussein was launching some of the worst chemical attacks in history — and still gave him a hand.”

Save this Link

“The U.S. government may be considering military action in response to chemical strikes near Damascus. But a generation ago, America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen, “Foreign Policy” has learned.

“In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

“The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence.

“These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.

“U.S. officials have long denied acquiescing to Iraqi chemical attacks, insisting that Hussein’s government never announced he was going to use the weapons. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, paints a different picture.

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” he told Foreign Policy.

“According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government.

The CIA declined to comment for this story.

“In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.

“In the documents, the CIA said that Iran might not discover persuasive evidence of the weapons’ use — even though the agency possessed it. Also, the agency noted that the Soviet Union had previously used chemical agents in Afghanistan and suffered few repercussions.

“It has been previously reported that the United States provided tactical intelligence to Iraq at the same time that officials suspected Hussein would use chemical weapons. But the CIA documents, which sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Md., combined with exclusive interviews with former intelligence officials, reveal new details about the depth of the United States’ knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly agents.

“They show that senior U.S. officials were being regularly informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks. They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.

“Top CIA officials, including the Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey, a close friend of President Ronald Reagan, were told about the location of Iraqi chemical weapons assembly plants; that Iraq was desperately trying to make enough mustard agent to keep up with frontline demand from its forces; that Iraq was about to buy equipment from Italy to help speed up production of chemical-packed artillery rounds and bombs; and that Iraq could also use nerve agents on Iranian troops and possibly civilians.

“Officials were also warned that Iran might launch retaliatory attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East, including terrorist strikes, if it believed the United States was complicit in Iraq’s chemical warfare campaign.

“As Iraqi attacks continue and intensify the chances increase that Iranian forces will acquire a shell containing mustard agent with Iraqi markings,” the CIA reported in a top secret document in November 1983. “Tehran would take such evidence to the U.N. and charge U.S. complicity in violating international law.”

“At the time, the military attaché’s office was following Iraqi preparations for the offensive using satellite reconnaissance imagery, Francona told Foreign Policy. According to a former CIA official, the images showed Iraqi movements of chemical materials to artillery batteries opposite Iranian positions prior to each offensive.

“Francona, an experienced Middle East hand and Arabic linguist who served in the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, said he first became aware of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran in 1984, while serving as air attaché in Amman, Jordan. The information he saw clearly showed that the Iraqis had used Tabun nerve agent (also known as “GA”) against Iranian forces in southern Iraq.

“The declassified CIA documents show that Casey and other top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. “If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border,” the CIA said in a top secret document.

“But it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost.
Read the full explosive report here:

Aug 26, 2013 10:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Gitfidl wrote:
Wars divert attention from TRAIN WRECKED policies, failed bail out, devaluing currency, protracted unemployment, unkept promises, deception, lies, teleprompter utterances … excessive travel .. nonfeasance, malfeasance and misfeasance. He needs a war; nobody’s involved in a liaison, money handling, back stabbing (well maybe some back stabbing and NSA fishing trips).

Aug 26, 2013 10:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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