While President Barack Obama considers moving U.S. troops closer to Syria for an eventual military intervention over the use of chemical weapons on civilians, Bashar al-Assad, his Syrian counterpart, warns not to intervene and accuses rebels. The US Secretary of State John Kerry says the chemical attack by the Syrian government is undeniable and inexcusable. Obama met with his national security team Saturday, the White House said, but US intelligence officials are still trying to determine whether Assad’s government unleashed the weapons of mass destruction that killed at least 355 Syrians earlier this week.
The Syrian government denies using the chemical weapons but accuses rebels of unleashing the deadly weapons on civilians and warns the USA not to intervene militarily in Syria.
From Malaysia, where he started a one-week tour of Asia, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that President Obama has asked the military to “prepare options for all contingencies” as the crisis in Syria deepens, following reports of a chemical weapons attack by that country’s government earlier this week.
“The use of chemical weapons in Syria is undeniable…. A moral obscenity…inexcusable,” said Kerry in a statement broadcast on TV. Kerry accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of destroying evidence of the attacks.
According to a White House statement, the national security team provided President Barack Obama with a detailed review of the range of options he has requested for the US and its international partners to respond if the fact-finding process concludes that Syrian President Bashar Assad has used deadly chemical weapons against his own people
Obama also talked about the subject with British Prime Minister, David Cameron. A statement released by Cameron’s office says that Obama and the British Prime Minister expressed “grave concern” and said “significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community.” This was the first conversation released to the press on the latest development in Syria. Obama and Cameron highlighted that this latest attack showed “increasing signs” that this was “a significant chemical weapons attack” against Syrian civilians.
US intelligence officials are still to determine if the Syrian government was responsible for the attack on its own people before any action is to be taken.
A UN team of investigators arrived in Syria last week and was finally authorized get access to the area where the alleged chemical attack took place, but the mission was stopped as a convey carrying the 20 UN investigators was shot at by hidden snipers.
Syria’s government and opposition which previously engaged to provide protection to UN convoys, accused each other over the sniper fire as well as on the use of chemical weapons. They both show amateur videos about the attack, but a report broadcast on Syrian national TV says that al-Assad has proof of the rebels’ use of chemical weapons: Barrels full of chemicals, syringes, gas masks and other objects were shown in what seemed to be an underground warehouse.
According to Doctors without Borders, 355 were killed and 3,600 patients roughly affected with “neurotoxic symptoms” in the eastern Ghouta area after the attack.
The UN said in a statement that the Syrian government agreed with the UN investigators’ report but a major official in Washington retorted that Syria’s answer came “too late to be credible.”
“The fact that President Assad has failed to co-operate with the U.N. suggests that the regime has something to hide,” says Cameron’s office statement.
The Syrian government also warned the US about consequences that may follow such an intervention. The Assad government says that all the Middle East could be set on fire.
Obama is seeking to maneuver in coordination with international partners. The White House says the US intelligence community continues to gather facts to ascertain what occurred, mindful of the dozens of contemporaneous witness accounts and record of the symptoms of those killed.
While Obama is still considering all options, the Navy “had already sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria,” the Associated Press reported intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying. They were not authorized to discuss ship movements publicly.
Sources: AP and the Economic Times