War-torn Syria Split into Three Regions
Israel and the Upcoming Nuclear War
The “Unthinkable” is Now Inevitable
The total destruction of Israel, something used by the Zionist lobby to bilk the US out of billions for years, is no longer a dream, it is inevitable. The only question is “when?” With it a limited world war may emerge with some surprises in store. It all started long ago but we can focus back one year when Israel murdered 9 Turkish citizens in an act of piracy, peace activists on an aid ship heading for Gaza. Aid ships heading for Gaza now get a military escort from the Turkish Navy and Turkey’s president is heading for Gaza and Egypt now, to slap Israel down.
A year ago, Israel and Turkey were best of friends. Their spy agencies in the US shared nuclear secrets, sold them to China, North Korea, Pakistan, Brazil, worked as partners blackmailing half of Washington’s army of corrupt officials and traitorous military officers. Patriotism in Washington is rare nowadays, considered stupid. Washington is all about “globalism” and “no borders,” about corporations, not “America.” To most in Washington, America is a joke, a bankrupt “has been” nation drowning in debt with a military now useless, spread across the globe running errands for a cabal of international bankers.
Until a week ago, the Turkish Army believed it had control of Turkey, despite the elected government. Israel believed the same. They were wrong. A year ago, Israel believed Turkey would always be controlled because of their desire to join the European Union. Now that dream is considered hopeless. Who would want to join anyway, the EU is broke, falling apart and toothless. Turkey, instead, is an economic powerhouse, outdistancing all but Germany in technology, productivity and science.
Turkey also has a huge army, a mobile army and a military tradition of relentlessness and, to be truthful, cruelty. Israel has been pointing that out of late, how Turkey wiped out the Armenians, much as Israel is wiping out the Palestinians. Problem is, Turkey’s army is big, highly disciplined, capable of supporting military operations across the entire Middle East, allied with Iraq, Iran and Egypt and considers Israel’s killings of Turkish citizens last year as an act of war.
This leaves only America or Israel’s nuclear weapons to protect them.
Paid stooges in Washington talk about Israel’s strategic importance to the US. That’s a dream, much as the strength of Israel’s army is a dream. There are two strategic allies in the Middle East, Egypt with their control of the Suez Canal and Turkey with their control of the Bosporus, the only gateway to the Black Sea, something of immense value to the US. Turkey is also the gateway for oil from Central Asia and Northern Iraq.
Another factor is Kurdistan. Israel has controlled the PKK, the communist terror group that has killed thousands in Turkey. Israel is threatening to unleash them again. In meetings with leaders in Iraq, however, I was told that Turkish military actions against the PKK, even inside Iraq were welcomed. Kurds in Iraq hate the PKK and have long seen it as destructive. Northern Iraq is closely aligned with Turkey, their economy is totally dependent on Turkey, much more than Baghdad. Hopes for a Kurdish nation are dependent on good relations with Turkey and those relations have improved continually for some time.
One reality is the weakness of Egypt. The Mubarak government, including the military and intelligence services worked closely with Israel as did those of Turkey. It is Israel’s goal to keep Egypt in line. However, with the killing of 5 Egyptian police and the protestors sacking the Israeli embassy in Cairo, that is coming into question.
Israel still has considerable resources in place in Egypt, particularly as we saw on August 11th, 2011, when Bush/Bechtel “envoy” David Welch met with Israeli and Gaddafi representatives in Cairo, at the Four Seasons Hotel, CIA and Egyptian spies in the room, planning bribes to be paid to journalists and “peace activists” in a last ditch attempt to save another Israeli ally, Gaddafi.
Thus, Turkey will be doing a “road trip” to gain allies against Israel and to flank US backing, blackmailing the US. As Turkey has nearly all US nuclear secrets, gotten through their spy partnership with AIPAC, something we were told of when I interviewed FBI informants within the Bush White House, they have things to trade. Turkey can turn out thermonuclear weapons quickly.
Israel’s counter is their partnership with India. India is building long range ICBMs, capable of carrying 10 warheads, also capable of reaching the United States. Israel has requested 10 of those missiles, giving them the capability of hitting the United States with 100 hydrogen bombs. This is not conjecture, this deal with India has been confirmed, the weapons are being built with US technology stolen by Israel (and Turkey) and Pakistan has spies working inside every aspect of the project, no secret to anyone.
China is also aware and they believe they are a potential target of these Indian weapons. Thus, China is transferring advanced technologies, not only thermonuclear but advanced aircraft designs and missile technology to Pakistan.
In reality, from a military standpoint, India overshadows Pakistan by a mile.However, with the US in economic decline and dependent on China to buy US debt, betting against China and their close relationship to Pakistan is inadvisable. Pakistan represents China’s foothold in Central Asia and their access to a port, Gwadar, in the Indian Ocean.
China is dependent on oil from the region and sees the Indian Ocean as an area of strategic value.Pakistan is taking advantage of that.Russia is laughing themselves to death. They helped set up America to fall in Afghanistan, payback for America’s support of the Mujahideen and are enraged at the CIA and US military for its role in flooding Russia with cheap heroin from Afghanistan.
Heroin is destroying the social fabric of Russia nearly as much as drug profits that have infected the US political system have destabilized the US, left the Mexican border totally open and kept the US in Afghanistan as guardians of the largest opium den in the world.
The changes we will see?
Libya’s new government is more than aware of Israel’s interference on behalf of Gaddafi and will become a relentless enemy of Israel, despite false reports Israel has inserted into the “fringe media.” Egypt is in play. Things could go either way, depending on how meetings go this week with Turkey.
With the UN vote on Gaza a given, the US will veto Palestinan statehood, Egypt and Turkey will be pushed together as US prestige in the region crashes.Israel’s reaction under its repressive and reactionary Likudist regime, under attack at home for economic failures, one after the other, will be to push for military action against Gaza.
They may also wish to “play” in Lebanon, taking advantage of Syria’s current weakness. This would be a mistake. Syria will not “go down in flames” like the Gaddafi regime. They are too vulnerable and will lose their place at the table, offset by Turkey, a nation that has an unpleasant history in the region lasting hundreds of years, a reputation Turkey is now trying to repair.
This could also go either way. Israel still has nuclear weapons. Their “nuclear advantage” in the Middle East is now likely to make them a target.
Turkey’s army is more than a match for Israel, not even close. There is little expectation that Egypt will do more than posture as their military under Mubarak became a defensive force only, infiltrated, as is Turkey’s, with corrupt officers.
What will happen?
Israel, with all its planning, its “possible involvement” in 9/11, its very proven involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its machinations in, not just Washington but Cairo, Ankara and other capitols across the region, is the big loser. Israel is now totally isolated and very much considered sacrificable by the US, despite continual pronouncements by members of congress otherwise.
PHOTOS NOT TO BE SEEN IN ANY AMERICAN
When Israel had to turn against the Democrats, despite the fact that 79% of American Jews support the Democratic Party, and turn to the GOP and Christian Zionists for support, they bought “friends” they would never be able to trust.
For years, American conservatives were known to hate Jews, ban them from organizations, maintain “no Jews allowed” policies at resorts and “ritzy” neighborhoods, under the euphemism of “restricted.”
Red States were always “no Jews or Niggers allowed after sundown.”
This may not be taught in history books but it is real history just the same and the generation of American Jews that remember real antisemitism, not the phony “Abe Foxman” kind, know who their real friends are.
9/11 ISN'T ALL WE LIE ABOUT
Turkey, not Iran, will be forced to go nuclear. Turkey, however, is a long time American ally, a charter member of NATO and, at heart, very pro-American, pro-Western and, as it were, sitting on the world’s most strategic real estate.
Turkey is also a relentless enemy, one Israel will be too stupid to apologize to, too stupid to make reparations to and will depend on its nuclear arsenal and friends in the US for protection.
Nobody will benefit from this, not the Palestinian people, not Egypt, only those who wish to see Israel have their faces in the dirt. There is a problem with this. There was some hope that Israel itself might have a rebirth of democracy, with 500,000 demonstrators demanding the resignation of Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist government last week, their was a hope.
The other big loser will be the United States. Pakistan will bring China into Central Asia. Turkey may well bring them into the Mediterranean or further.
Whether American’s choose to recognize it or not, Bush murdered America’s military future. Social cuts and job programs won’t be enough. America will have to gut its military and withdraw from its bases around the world, that or economically die in less than 5 years.
The only other way out is “debt denial” which requires full cooperation from China and Japan. In light of these issues, these problems, Israel, that “small country” that has so much control over the US government will wake up one morning a forgotten “backwater” in world affairs.
Back in 1981, it looked like Israel would be a peaceful neighbor in a Middle East destined to move forward, maybe not to freely elected governments but at least to no longer be a sideshow for the Cold War.
There were lessons from 1981, when Jews visited Cairo as honored guests.
500,000 Israeli’s, homeless, underemployed, say they can no longer afford, even with the billions America is giving them, to try to run the world from a few acres of sand, now farmed by foreign workers.
If Israel’s extremist government continues its fear mongering, helped along by AIPAC and the ADL in the United States, Israel will not survive. Israel will not die alone, not by a long shot. The problem is that there is no political leader in Israel or within the Zionist community in the United States that seems to care.
The dreams of world domination, as some of us have always seen, never left room for the survival of Israel or any other nation.
According to the Associated Press, two and a half years into Syria's civil war, the once highly-centralized authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flags, security agencies and judicial system. The regime of President Bashar Al Assad retains control of a corridor running from north to south along the Mediterranean shore, while large sections of Syria's interior and southwest remain in rebel hands, and Syrian Kurds control the northeast. The dividing lines remain very fluid, as regime and rebel forces have traded advances and attacks for months now. While foreign aid to both rebels and Assad's forces is on the rise, and diplomatic efforts toward peace start and stop, the U.N. now estimates that more than 100,000 Syrians have died in the conflict, with millions more forced to flee to neighboring states.
A rebel fighter passes through an access hole broken in the perimeter of a football pitch, close to the front line, where clashes between the rebels and pro-government troops have been taking place on the outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo, on July 4, 2013.(Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
Armageddon watch over Syria
By Gordon Duff and Press TV
“Israel, unable to field credible conventional forces, is attempting to destroy the fighting ability of the Syrian Army through attrition, not simply “shock and awe,” but nuclear, chemical and even biological weapons.”
Experts on arms control policy, confirmed by multiple independent sources, indicate that Syria has been hit, in recent days, by at least four tactical nuclear weapons.
In addition, a Syrian Army brigade suffered massive casualties from a Sarin gas attack.
Not only are these attacks pushing the world to the brink of war but they coincide with a threat against America “from within,” Pentagon, DHS, AIPAC, drug cartels and key leaders of extremist GOP and Tea Party factions.
There is no “Al Qaeda threat,” the whole thing is a deception and cover, which has allowed President Obama to put in place needed defenses against a coup that was only days away.
WMD Use in Syria
The chemical weapons were traced to the Republic of Georgia and delivered to Israeli-led Al Qaeda forces inside Syria by units of the Turkish Army.
Israel, unable to field credible conventional forces, is attempting to destroy the fighting ability of the Syrian Army through attrition, not simply “shock and awe,” but nuclear, chemical and even biological weapons.
Last week, IDF Military Intelligence told their American counterparts that Russia had delivered eight nuclear weapons to Syria as a deterrent to further WMD attacks by Israel.
The US contacted Russia though official diplomatic channels. Russia, when asked, denied transferring nuclear weapons to Syria but indicated it had “special weapons” in theatre, with naval and air forces, if their “vital interests” were threatened.
Israel then reached out to Saudi Arabia, asking them to promise Russia a payment in excess of $1 trillion to abandon both their interests in Syria and to work to isolate Iran.
Russia was told they would receive their payment when they introduced a resolution to the Security Council to enact a “no fly zone” over Syria. Israel and Saudi Arabia received assurances that China would not exercise her veto at the Security Council if Russia either introduced or supported the measure.
There has been no leak from Kremlin sources as to the position President Putin will take.
The visit to Israel by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is an effort on behalf of the Obama administration to curtail what sane voices in Washington see as an attempt to begin a nuclear conflict that would inexorably engulf the planet.
President Obama canceled his scheduled meeting with President Putin in Moscow, not over issues of political asylum for Edward Snowden as reported in the press.
President Obama is facing a powerful domestic threat, reports of a possible military coup. He will not leave the capitol and has sent those he sees as leaders of that effort to bring down the government, Senators McCain and Graham, to Egypt on a “fishing expedition.”
In Egypt, McCain’s crass remarks and unconsidered comments, directly contradicting not just Secretary of State Kerry but angering the Egyptian government, may well undermine McCain’s influence with extremist elements planning to overthrow the US government.
“Songbird” McCain may well have plotted his last.
On the Ground in Syria
Today, a car bomb killed 18 outside Damascus. Al Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate trying to topple the governments of Iraq and Syria is credited. However, all intelligence estimates now clearly recognize that Al Nusra is, increasingly, Israeli controlled, particularly after bouts of infighting between factions fighting the government of Syria.
Russia spoke out against this attack, citing foreign-backed militants trying to “burn Syria to the ground” in revenge for the lack of support the Syrian people have given toward “regime change.”
What Russia hasn’t done is speak out against far more serious attacks on Syria, the use of tactical nuclear weapons by Israel, some believed to be launched from above Golan or Lebanon, some from inside Turkey or from submarines off Syria’s coast.
Russia’s lack of a reality-based policy on Syria is as responsible for the current state of affairs as Israeli hubris.
Israel is desperate, under pressure by the US to come up with a peace plan with the Palestinians who, themselves, now “smell blood” and are unwilling to settle for a smile, handshake and knife in the back as they had before.
Israel’s use of nuclear weapons against Syria is far from a demonstration of power, it is a sign of, not just weakness but collapse. Israel is so “forgotten” even the weekly holocaust hand wringing marathons are going unnoticed.
The whole idea behind the victimization hysteria that constitutes the social fabric of Israel is failing.
Israel’s continually changing scenario, always trying to “brand an evildoer,” is no longer having success with Iran. Iran’s newly seated popular government, progressive by Western standards, makes fear mongering by Netanyahu’s Likudist fanatics less than credible.
In early May, Israel lost a Dolphin submarine to a Russian built homing torpedo dropped from a Syrian helicopter. Approximately 48 hours later, Israel hit a Syrian command center with a tactical nuclear weapon.
Video of the attack, when examined by nuclear weapons experts, led to one conclusion. This was a nuclear weapon.
Since then, Israel has lost one F16 with two crewmembers to their S300 air defense system. However, sources indicate that the US, prior to Bush (43) leaving office, had supplied, not only latest variants of Generation III and IV tactical nuclear weapons, yields as low as 10 tons of TNT, some with no residual radiation whatsoever.
This has allowed Israel to attack Syria’s “soft targets” using terrain following missiles that can avoid the S300 radars, which are stretched thin.
Israel has been applying a “full court press,” using every intelligence asset available to defeat the S300 system through tracking the mobile radar and launch systems.
However, based on very limited conventional striking power, Israel has only its newfound mini-nukes, Sarin gas and unconfirmed use of bio-toxins to lash out with.
Official sources concurred and in an interview with Colonel Jim Hanke, former Defense Attaché to Israel, it was revealed that Israel has long prepared for such attacks on Syria, even to the point of carefully mapping target sites in reference to fault lines that lead into Israel.
Were a nuclear weapon or massive penetrator/bunker-buster to be used carelessly, it could spread massive earthquakes across Israel.
On August 1, 2013, Israel attacked what they called a “large weapons cache” outside Homs.
In many ways, the attack resembled the Qasyoon mountain attack in early May, an attack that was confirmed to be nuclear, a full mushroom cloud with requisite “ball lightning.”
The Homs explosion was said to be both a fuel depot and arms cache. What was observed, however, was a telltale mushroom cloud, a massive shockwave and an explosion that no munitions expert would ever consider a “secondary blast.”
From an August 5, 2013 article by Jon Snow, posted on the UK Channel 4 blog:
Snow’s source, highly credible and knowledgeable, indicated that Israel stood ready to deploy its arsenal of five-megaton thermonuclear weapons against Syria’s cities.
Israel believes they are immune to retaliation.
Toward that end, Israel has instructed India to begin border clashes with Pakistan and to put its nuclear forces on high alert.
Only Pakistan could meet an Israeli attack with an overwhelming nuclear response. It is India’s job to tie Pakistan’s hands.
Every base has been covered, the US threatened with coup, the EU financially destroyed, Russia facing an uncertain United States and the chance for a huge financial payday.
People have heard about game theory warfare but few knew the real risks.
A Syrian government forces tank, outside Khaled bin Walid mosque in the Khalidiyah district of Syria's central city of Homs, on July 31, 2013. The Syrian government announced on July 29, the capture of Khaldiyeh, a key rebel district in Homs, Syria's third city and a symbol of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
Members of the Free Syrian Army fire a home-made rocket towards forces loyal to the Syrian regime in Deir al-Zor, on June 16, 2013.(Reuters/Khalil Ashawi) #
A man walks along a damaged street filled with debris in Deir al-Zor, on June 17, 2013. (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi) #
A female member of the Ahbab Al-Mustafa Battalion stands on a pick-up truck mounted with an anti-aircraft weapon as she undergoes military training in Aleppo's Salaheddine district, on June 24, 2013. (Reuters/Muzaffar Salman)
British people woke for a second morning to the chilling realisation that the US and UK were not waiting for the results of the UN’s enquiries in Syria before launching military intervention. There’s also a suggestion that the UN inspection team’s remit does not include determining blame for the chemical attack (if that’s what it was).
The BBC has also been telling the nation that there’s no legal requirement for the prime minister to consult Parliament before committing an act of war. This sounds incredible. So too does the idea being circulated that a military strike could happen without UN Security Council approval.
Furthermore, we are now hearing from the government’s media serfs on a regular basis that Syria has not signed up to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as if that settles the matter. The CWC declares that “all States Parties have agreed to chemically disarm by destroying any stockpiles of chemical weapons they may hold and any facilities which produced them, as well as any chemical weapons they abandoned on the territory of other States Parties in the past.”
But neither has Egypt and she still receives massive military aid from the US. And guess who still hasn’t ratified (i.e. formally confirmed) the treaty? Israel, showing the same contempt with which that regime treats nuclear non-proliferation.
The US is a signatory but also a major violator of the CWC while Israel won’t open its chemical weapons facilities to international inspection.
Many fingers point to Israel as the likely perpetrator of the chemical weapons atrocity. It is after all the region’s chief troublemaker. Israel illegally invaded Lebanon in 1978. Before their 1982 re-invasion the Israelis prepared the ground for war by callously manipulating their provocations and Lebanon’s responses in order to provide ‘justification’, a tactic they have also used against Hamas in Gaza. When the ‘justification’ came Israel retaliated with disproportionate air and artillery strikes against Palestinian targets in Lebanon, including the refugee camps.
The Sabra and Shatila camps near Beirut were bombed for four hours. An international commission concluded that Israel “committed acts of aggression contrary to international law”, that the government of Israel had no valid reasons for invading Lebanon, and that Israel was responsible for the killings in Sabra and Shatila. The United Nations General Assembly declared the Sabra and Shatila massacre an act of genocide.
UN Resolution 1701 required the Israeli army to withdraw behind the Blue Line and both parties to respect that boundary. It also required Israel to hand over all maps of landmines in Lebanon. However Israel still occupies the Shebaa Farms area. There is discussion as to whether this formally belongs to Syria or Lebanon. It certainly doesn’t belong to the Israelis. Nevertheless Israel repeatedly breaches 1701 by crossing the Blue Line and violating Lebanese airspace.
In Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, Amnesty International called on both Hezbollah and Israel to end attacks on civilian areas and identified the destruction of entire civilian neighbourhoods and villages by Israeli forces, attacks on bridges with no apparent strategic value, and attacks on infrastructure indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. They said Israeli actions suggested a “policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population”. AI also highlighted the IDF’s use of white phosphorus shells (a crime repeated in Gaza in 2008/9), and after the ceasefire some parts of southern Lebanon were uninhabitable for a long time due to unexploded cluster bombs left lying around by Israel.
So Israel is certainly sadistic enough to be the culprit in the Damascus case.
Israel also seized the Golan Heights above the Sea of Galilee from Syria in 1967 and unilaterally annexed the area in 1981, a move that was not recognised internationally. Apart from its military value the Golan is an important rainwater catchment area. Israel desperately wants to hold onto this stolen territory.
For those who don’t know, prime minister Cameron and foreign secretary Hague are both fervent members of Conservative Friends of Israel, Hague since he was 15. Cameron is a self-declared Zionist and both have pledged undying support for Israel no matter what. Hague went so far as to arrange a change to Britain’s universal jurisdiction laws in order to provide a safe haven for Israelis suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Cameron and Hague both voted “very strongly” for the Iraq war, according to theyworkforyou.com. In other words, they both failed to exercise due diligence and establish the truth about Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction before approving the almost total destruction of Iraq and the obscene slaughter that went with it. This recklessness is all the more contemptible when both were members of the opposition charged with holding the government of the day (Blair’s) to account. After such a shocking demonstration of poor judgement, Cameron and Hague and all the others who approved the Iraq war should, in my opinion, never have been allowed to hold public office again.
Yet here they are, salivating at the prospect of more mega-bloodshed. And from the sidelines Blair, who should be in chains at The Hague or preferably swinging by the neck from a lamp-post on Tower Bridge, pops up again to urge an attack on Syria.
What can British citizens do to stop this next warmongering tragedy? Parliament probably will be recalled, so it may be worth writing to tell one’s MP what’s expected of him. I did so yesterday along these lines…….
“Britain is planning to join forces with America and launch military action against Syria within days in response to the gas attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against his own people…” These are the chilling headlines this lovely summer’s bank holiday.
“Gas attack BELIEVED to have been carried out…” (by Assad’s forces). No incontrovertible evidence, however, and nothing that justifies an armed response. Only a belief, no more than a hunch, when reason actually points the finger elsewhere.
Will the British people and their Parliament be consulted before fateful action is taken? I hear that Downing Street said summoning the Commons from its summer break had not been ruled out, but stressed Mr Cameron “reserved the ability to take action very swiftly if needed”, according to Sky News.
Why not wait for proof? On whose behalf are Hague and Cameron speaking, anyway? Certainly not for the British public, who have had enough of illegal and interfering wars.
The trigger-happy duo, always straining at the leash, clearly have their own agenda and scant regard for either hard facts or international law let alone the consequences. Anyone with a slightest knowledge of the Middle East and the Tory leadership’s affiliations can easily join the dots. And the picture formed is not a pretty one.
What is the Party doing, please, to rein in its dangerous loons before it’s too late?
A damaged church in Qusayr, on June 5, 2013. Syrian troops and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies captured the border town after a grueling three-week battle, dealing a severe blow to rebels. (AP Photo/SANA) #
A vandalized statue displayed at Saint Elie Church in the city of Qusayr, in Syria's central Homs province, on August 1, 2013.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man attempts to harvest wheat from a field on fire, which activists said was caused by shelling carried out by forces loyal to the Syrian regime, in Ma'arat Masrein, north of Idlib, on June 6, 2013. (Reuters/Abdalghne Karoof) #
A Free Syrian Army fighter, near Kindi hospital, which is under the control of forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad, as both sides fight to take control of the hospital in Aleppo, on June 11, 2013. (Reuters/Hamid Khatib) #
Children play with water from a burst water pipe in Aleppo's al-Shaar district, on July 23, 2013. (Reuters/Hamid Khatib) #
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks past swings in a damaged amusement park in Deir al-Zor, on July 21, 2013. (Reuters/Karam Jamal) #
A defaced picture of Bassel al-Assad, brother of Syria's President Bashar, at the gate of the Minnig military airport, after it was seized by rebels, on August 8, 2013. (Reuters/Hamid Khatib) #
Damaged radar equipment that belonged to the Syrian Army, at the Minnig military airport, after it was seized by rebels, on August 11, 2013.(Reuters/Mahmoud Hassano) #
A destroyed Russian-made helicopter that belonged to the Syrian Army at the rebel-captured Minnig military airport, on August 11, 2013.(Reuters/Mahmoud Hassano) #
Free Syrian Army fighters hold their weapons in Jobar, Damascus, on August 8, 2013. (Reuters/Mohamed Abdullah) #
Damaged buildings in the Karm al-Jabal neighborhood of Aleppo, an area controlled by the Free Syrian Army fighters, on June 20, 2013.(Reuters/George Ourfalian) #
Syrian men rush a heavily wounded man to hospital in Saraqeb in northwestern Syria after a barrel bomb dropped by an air force helicopter exploded less than 10 meters away from his car on July 20, 2013. The Syrian air force kept up a fierce campaign against Saraqeb and staged 10 air strikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, killing several people and injuring many others.(Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images) #
A bicycle hangs on a wall of a balcony of a damaged building in Aleppo's Karm al-Jabal district, on June 3, 2013. (Reuters/Muzaffar Salman) #
A rebel fighter drills into a bomb at a makeshift weapons workshop in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, on August 5, 2013, where fighters recycle ordinance used by pro-government forces. (Mezar Matar/AFP/Getty Images) #
A rebel fighter places explosive packets into a suicide belt which will be detonated with the orange fuses (left) at a makeshift weapons workshop in Raqqa, on August 5, 2013, where fighters manufacture mines, bombs and improvised explosive devices to be used against troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. (Mezar Matar/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Sunni Sheikh, who goes by the pseudonym of Abou Obaida, holds up his weapon, and gestures while calling upon worshipers to join a jihad against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during Friday prayers inside Osama Bin Zayed mosque in Aleppo, on August 9, 2013.(Reuters/Hamid Khatib) #
Soldiers of the Syrian government forces patrol a devastated street in the district of al-Khalidiyah, Homs, on July 31, 2013. The Syrian government announced the capture of Khalidiyah, a key rebel district in Homs, Syria's third city and a symbol of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Syrian government forces soldier eats in the al-Khalidiyah district of of Homs, on July 31, 2013. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires back towards what he said were forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Deir al-Zor, on July 22, 2013. (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi) #
The bodies of dead and injured rebel fighters lie under a bridge during clashes with pro-government forces in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood in Aleppo, on June 20, 2013. (Abo Al-Nur SADK/AFP/Getty Images) #
Vehicles abandoned by Syrian opposition fighters in Dabaa, north of Qusayr, in Syria's central Homs province as regime forces sought to mop up pockets of rebel resistance north of Qusayr, on June 7, 2013. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
Dead bodies of Syrian rebels lie on the ground, killed during an ambush by Syrian forces near the Damascus suburb of Adra, on August 7, 2013. Syrian government forces killed more than 60 rebels Wednesday in the ambush near Damascus. (AP Photo/SANA) #
Rebel fighters walk past the bodies of government soldiers in a field in Syria's eastern town of Deir al-Zor, on August 10, 2013.(Abo Shuja/AFP/Getty Images) #
In this image taken from leaked video obtained by Ugarit News and posted on Monday, July 15, 2013, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show a fireball from an explosion at a weapons depot set off by rocket attacks that struck government-held districts in Homs on Thursday, August 1, 2013. The blasts sent a massive ball of fire into the sky, killing scores and causing widespread damage and panic among residents, many of whom are supporters of President Bashar Assad.(AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video) #
A man carries a boy wounded in what the Free Syrian Army said was an air raid by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma district area near Damascus, on July 13, 2013. The air raid on July 13 was part of al-Assad's campaign to secure the Duma area from rebels, according to the Free Syrian Army. Picture taken July 13. (Reuters/Bassam Khabieh) #
People help a man after he was pulled out from under rubble at a site hit by what activists say was a missile attack from the Syrian regime in the besieged area of Homs, on July 25, 2013. (Reuters/Yazan Homsy) #
Residents try to find their belongings among the rubble left of their homes after what activists said was an air attack from forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Bab Neirab, Aleppo, on July 27, 2013. (Reuters/Hamid Khatib) #
Bodies lie at a morgue following fighting between rebel fighters and Syrian government forces on August 10, 2013 in the northern city of Raqqa, the only provincial capital in rebel hands. Syrian regime air strikes killed more than 30 people Saturday in the Latakia province, bastion of the ruling Assad clan, and the northern city of Raqqa, a monitory group said. (Alice Martins/AFP/Getty Images) #
Siham, wife of Mohammad Darro Jamo, mourns his death as she is comforted by a relative in Sarafand, southern Lebanon, on July 17, 2013. Militants assassinated a well-known supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Lebanon early on Wednesday, security sources said, the latest sign of Syria's civil war spreading to its smaller neighbor. Mohammad Darra Jamo, a commentator who worked for Syrian state media and often appeared on Arab TV channels, was attacked by gunmen hiding in his house in the southern town of Sarafand, the sources said.(Reuters/Ali Hashisho) #
People walk and shop on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, at the Karaj Al-Hajez crossing, a passageway separating Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr, which is under the rebels' control, and Al-Masharqa neighborhood, an area controlled by the regime, on July 10, 2013. (Reuters/Muzaffar Salman) #
A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his son as he walks along a street in the old city of Aleppo, on June 24, 2013.(Reuters/Muzaffar Salman)
'We are ready to go': American-led forces move cruise missiles into position for anticipated 48 hour blitz on Syrian targets within days
In an attack expected within the next 48 hours, missiles would be fired at President Bashar al-Assad's command and control facilities, weapons delivery centers, intelligence bases and military training camps.
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The U.S. Navy has released this picture showing the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64), left, and the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on their way to the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month
Defense Secretary Hagel, left, has said that U.S.-led forces to 'ready to go' if called upon to strike President Bashar al-Assad's command and other Syrian targets
U.S. forces are ‘ready to go’ if called on to strike the Syrian regime, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday.
'We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,' said Hagel, who was interviewed during a visit to the southeast Asian nation of Brunei.
Hagel predicted that U.S. intelligence agencies would soon conclude that last week's deadly attack on civilians in a Damascus suburb was a chemical attack by Bashar al Assad's government.
'I think it's pretty clear that chemical weapons were used against people in Syria,' he said.
The U.S. Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea positioned within range of targets inside Syria, as well as U.S. warplanes in the region
The U.S. Navy has four destroyers, including the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea positioned within range of targets inside Syria, as well as U.S. warplanes in the region
U.S. COULD TURN TO NATO IF RUSSIA ATTEMPTS TO VETO STRIKES VIA U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL
Any military strike against Syria will almost certainly have to be done without the support of the U.N. Security Council.
While the Obama administration is busy constructing the legal and political justification for action, Russia leader Vladimir Putin has issued a strong condemnation of any military action by the West.
The 15-nation U.N. Security Council has been split on Syria since 2011 with Russia - and China - having vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad and calling for punitive steps against his government.
Both Russia and China will almost certainly use their position to veto any resolution authorizing military action this time as well.
So does that leave the U.S. and its allies facing the prospect of armed intervention without international approval?
Not exactly, recent history shows there other means of securing legitimacy for their actions.
The U.S. has intervened in conflicts before without Security Council backing, most notably in the Kosovo War in 1999.
As with that dispute, legitimacy could come from a coalition of nations that support action.
In 1999, America bypassed the Security Council to avoid a Russian veto and got backing instead from NATO.
The Arab League could also formally endorse military action against Syria as it did with Libya in 2011.
'I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn't the (Syria) rebels who used it, and they'll probably be pretty good intelligence to show is that the Syria government was responsible - but we'll allow the time to come together to provide that information.'
President Obama had asked the Pentagon to give him 'all options for all contingencies,' Hagel said, and 'we have done that.'
'We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,' Hagel said.
In return, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned Washington that his government is ready to defend itself using 'all means available.' Russia, a Syrian ally, responded by delivering aid to the region and evacuating some of its citizens.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin also blasted Western countries on Twitter, saying, 'The West behaves towards the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade.'
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syria that his country 'will respond, and respond with force' if Israel is targeted in some sort of counterattack.
The potential strikes against Syria would likely last no more than two or three days, enabling the U.S. and its allies to punish Assad for the chemical attack he allegedly ordered on August 21 without drawing Western powers deeper into the country's civil war, Obama administration officials said. Senior officials told NBC News that the strikes could be launched 'as early as Thursday.'
But Americans are deeply opposed to involving U.S. forces in the conflict in Syria, as evidenced by a Reuters/Ipsos poll that showed just nine percent of people support military intervention.
Free Syrian Army fighters hold up their weapons as they cheer after seizing Aleppo's town of Khanasir August 26
An opposition fighter fires a rocket propelled grenade on August 26, 2013 during clashes with regime forces over the strategic area of Khanasser, situated on the only road linking Aleppo to central Syria
A general view shows a heavily damaged street in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor on August 26
A Free Syrian Army fighter (left) provides cover for his fellow fighter inspecting a body, which according to the FSA was one of the forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, on August 26
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said his country would defend itself using 'all means available' in case of a U.S. strike
The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry launches a Tomahawk cruise missile from the ship's bow in the Mediterranean Sea in this U.S. Navy handout photo taken March 29, 2011. Barry is one of four U.S. destroyers currently deployed in the Mediterranean Sea that could potentially be used to strike Syria
That number jumps to 25 percent if Assad is proven to have carried out the toxic gas attack.
The White House said on Tuesday that it would be 'fanciful' to assume anyone but Assad is responsible for the use of chemical weapons.
'It's our firm belief that the Assad regime is responsible,' White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday. He said the administration will provide the public with an intelligence assessment proving the regime's culpability later this week.
Carney also made clear that Obama is not considering a regime change as one of his options in responding to the chemical attack.
'It is our firm conviction that Syria’s future cannot include Assad in power,' Carney said. But 'the options that we are considering are not about regime change. They are about responding to the clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.'
This Reuters graphic shows where military forces are positioned around Syria
Assad continues to deny claims that he ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Syrian government accused Secretary of State John Kerry of lying when Kerry said that there was 'undeniable' evidence of a toxic gas attack.
The government also denied Kerry's assertion that it has not been cooperating fully with U.N. chemical weapons investigators, who were finally allowed into Syria on Monday after a five-day delay.
Snipers opened fire on the investigators as they traveled to the site of the alleged chemical attack on Monday and the convoy's second visit to the site, scheduled for Tuesday, had to be delayed due to security concerns.
Western leaders told the Syrian opposition during a meeting on Monday to expect a strike against embattled President Bashar al-Assad's forces within days.
'The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva,' Reuters reported, citing sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday sharply condemned the Syrian regime for 'covering up' a chemical weapons attack against its civilians
In this undated photo released Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures as he speaks during an interview with a Russian newspaper, in Damascus, Syria
SYRIA SENDS STOCKS TUMBLING
Fears of an escalating conflict in Syria rippled across financial markets on Tuesday, sinking stocks, lifting gold and pushing the price of oil to the highest in a year and a half.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 159 points, or 1.1 percent, to 14,791 in late afternoon trading, the biggest decline in two weeks.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 23 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,634 and the Nasdaq composite fell 71 points, or 1.8 percent, to 3,586.
The sell-off in U.S. stocks was broad. All 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 index were in the red, and only 21 of the 500 stocks in the index rose. Utilities and other high dividend-paying stocks escaped the selling.
The impact wasn't just in stocks. Gold prices advanced and government bond prices jumped because traders see those investments holding their value better in times of uncertainty. Oil surged $3.03, or 2.9 percent, to $108.94, a level last reached in May 2011.
While Syria itself has little oil, traders feared an intervention in Syria could cause further instability in the Middle East and possibly disrupt the flow of oil from the region.
The U.S. Navy has four destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea that are within range of Syrian military targets inside Syria. The U.S. also has warplanes in the region.
Kerry set the stage for military intervention in Syria on Monday in a strongly-worded statement condemning the Syrian regime for the 'inexcusable' use of chemical weapons.
'What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world,' Kerry said. 'Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.'
Describing the 'heart-wrenching' images of victims to the alleged attacks, Kerry said, 'Everything these images are already screaming at us is real - that chemical weapons were used in Syria.' Anyone who denies that fact 'needs to check their conscience and own moral compass,' he said.
'What is before us today is real and it is compelling' and requires an international response, he said.
'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 the administration has obtained 'additional information' about the attack last Wednesday that will be revealed in the coming days.
President Obama discussed potential strikes against Syria in a 40-minute phone call to British Prime Minister David Cameron over the weekend after reviewing a range of military options with his national security team.
Free Syrian Army fighters sitting atop a tank that belonged to forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, hold up their weapons and cheer after seizing Aleppo's town of Khanasir August 26, 2013
Free Syrian Army fighters deploy in Aleppo's town of Khanasir after seizing it August 26
An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on August 26, 2013 allegedly shows UN inspectors visiting a hospital in the Damascus subburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham
A U.N. vehicle carrying a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts returns to their hotel after visiting one of the sites of an alleged poison gas attack
Syrians inspect the rubble of damaged buildings due to heavy shelling by Syrian government forces in Aleppo, Syria on Monday
With the possibility of an international intervention on the horizon, Assad issued a sharp warning to the U.S. and its allies on Monday.
'Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day,' he told Russian newspaper Izvestia daily when asked what would happen if Washington decided to strike.
During a phone call Monday with Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Assad, saying that Russia has no evidence of 'whether a chemical weapons attack had taken place or who was responsible' in Syria, according to a statement from the British government.
Monday's reported sniper attack took place in a buffer zone area between rebel and government-controlled territory. The U.N. convoy that was targeted included eight vehicles - six carrying chemical weapons experts, one carrying security forces and one ambulance.
U.N. chemical weapons experts inspect one of the sites of an alleged poison gas attack in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya
U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria met and took samples from victims of the apparent poison gas attack
U.N. chemical weapons experts visit a hospital to meet with wounded people affected by the apparent gas attack
The U.N. team replaced the vehicle that was disabled by the sniper fire and continued on their mission, eventually arriving at two hospitals in Damascus where they met with doctors and people who still have symptoms from the alleged chemical attack, according to statement by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
'They visited two hospitals, they interviewed witnesses, survivors and doctors, they also collected some samples,' he said in a statement.
The Syrian government accused 'terrorists' of firing on the inspectors, according to Syrian state TV. The U.N. has not said who may have been behind the attack.
Hagel on Monday said the U.S. would not take action without the green light from its allies.
'We are analyzing the intelligence. And we will get the facts. And if there is any action taken, it will be concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification,' Hagel said during a news conference in Jakarta.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said its armed forces were in place in the region and was 'ready to go' should President Barack Obama order action
David Cameron has insisted any military action in Syria would be to prevent the future use of chemical weapons
Should the U.S. attack Syria after barbaric chemical attack that killed 1,300 civilians?
'They do not need an authorization but I do hope they will come for one,' Corker, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe.' 'If you look at foreign policy over the last long period of time, Congress has gotten a pass on all of these issues and the debate in Washington to me can be almost sophomoric and silly because we're not taking ownership over these decisions.'
Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel also urged Obama to act with haste.
Speaking on 'Fox News Sunday,' he said Congress should be involved in any potential strike but 'perhaps not initially.'
'We've got to move, and we've got to move quickly,' he said.
British Royal Navy commanders are preparing to take part in the potential assault, with government sources indicating the cruise missile blitz is likely to be short and sharp and will not signal an intention to get involved in the bloody civil war in Syria.
Obama and Cameron want to send a clear warning to Assad over the deaths of as many as 1,300 people, many of them children, in the reported chemical attack early last Wednesday. The Syrian opposition put the number of deaths at 1,300, while humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said that number was closer to 355.
In addition to the those killed by the attacks, more than 3,200 patients were treated with 'neurotoxic symptoms' at three hospitals outside Damascus, according to the organization.
An Israeli Postal Service employee shows a man how to adjust a gas mask. Thousands of Israelis lined up for gas masks at nationwide distribution centers Monday fearing a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria may wind up ensnaring their own nation in conflict
An Israeli man shows his children how to adjust a gas mask at a distribution point at a shopping mall in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem
British foreign secretary William Hague said ‘all the evidence’ suggested Assad’s regime carried out the chemical attack.
‘We cannot, in the 21st century, allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity – that people can be killed in this way and that there are no consequences for it,’ insisted the foreign secretary.
‘We believe it is very important there is a very strong response so that dictators, whether Assad or others who might slaughter their own people, know that using chemical weapons is to cross a line, and that the world will respond.’
In an ominous development, Damascus warned President Obama that any intervention would not be a ‘walk in the park’, adding: ‘It will bring chaos and the region will burn.’
Iran also warned the West it would face ‘severe consequences’ if it intervened in Syria.
Hundreds died in the alleged chemical attacks on Wednesday, including many women and children
Activists say that somewhere near 1,300 were killed in the chemical weapons attack on Wednesday near Damascus. Syria has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons of any country
The Prime Minister said the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons on 10 other occasions before the attack that killed up to 1,200 in Damascus last week and warned the world 'should not stand idly by'
President Francois Hollande is also pushing for swift military retaliation and could authorize the use of French forces in the attack.
A statement from Britain following the talks said the two men ‘agreed that a chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people on the scale that was emerging demanded a firm response from the international community. This crime must not be swept under the carpet.’
Mr Hollande’s office said: ‘France is determined that this act does not go unpunished.’
WHERE THE WORLD'S LEADERS STAND ON TAKING MILITARY ACTION IN SYRIA
From the AP: France and Germany suggested Monday they may take part in a military intervention in Syria, while Russia said any such intervention would violate international law.
FRANCE - President Francois Hollande says time is running out for the Syrian regime and airstrikes are a possibility.
'Everything will come into play this week,' he told Le Parisien newspaper. 'There are several options on the table, ranging from strengthening international sanctions to airstrikes to arming the rebels... We can't go without a reaction when confronted with chemical weapons.'
GERMANY - Germany suggested for the first time it may support the use of force if a chemical weapons attack is confirmed.
'The suspected large-scale use of poison gas breaks a taboo even in this Syrian conflict that has been so full of cruelty,' Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Monday. 'It's a serious breach of the international Chemical Weapons Convention, which categorically bans the use of these weapons. It must be punished, it cannot remain without consequences.'
Germany has 'very clear evidence that this was a chemical weapons attack,' Seibert said.
RUSSIA - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Western nations calling for military action against Syria have no proof the regime is behind the alleged attack.
'They cannot produce evidence, but keep on saying that the "red line" has been crossed and they cannot wait any longer,' he said. He warned against military intervention in Syria, saying 'the use of force without a sanction of the U.N. Security Council is a crude violation of international law.'
BRITAIN - Foreign Secretary William Hague said disagreements among the five U.N. Security Council members have prevented any action over Syria from being taken for too long and 'complete unity' wasn't necessary to launch a response.
'We cannot in the 21st century allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity,' he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said lawmakers could be recalled to debate any potential action over Syria as soon as this week. Cameron's spokesman said the British government reserves 'the ability to take action swiftly if needed.'
TURKEY - Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country would take part in an international coalition against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime if the U.N. failed to come up with sanctions to punish Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons.
Turkey was once a close Syrian ally, but turned into one of Assad's harshest critics and is a key supporter of Syrian rebels.
UNITED NATIONS - Speaking to reporters in the South Korean capital of Seoul, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said 'if proven, any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law and an outrageous crime. We cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity.'
EUROPEAN UNION - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said a decision about military intervention in Syria hasn't been made yet and the support of the U.N. Security Council for any such action remains 'extremely important.'
Ashton told reporters in Estonia's capital, Tallinn, the world 'needs to find a political solution' for Syria's bloodshed. She said it is difficult for the 28-member EU to reach a joint conclusion, but the bloc is considering 'various options.'
ISRAEL - President Shimon Peres has called on the U.N. to appoint the Arab League to set up a temporary government in Syria to stop the bloodshed.
Peres' comments marked the highest-profile Israeli call for international intervention in neighboring Syria. Israel has been careful to stay on the sidelines of Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 100,000.
Just one section of the huge Quru Gusik refugee camp in Iraq which is now home to thousands of displaced Syrians
Refugee siblings in the camp eat watermelons being distributed by the NGO
UN aid agencies say the number of children fleeing Syria has now reached one million
One of the Kurdish refugees protects himself from the sun with a shemagh while walking through the camp
A grandmother and mother with a disabled child who fled from Syria to the camp in Iraq
'THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY:' KERRY ISSUES WARNING TO ASSAD
Below is the full text of Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on Syria:
'Well, for the last several days President Obama and his entire national security team have been reviewing the situation in Syria. And today I want to provide an update on our efforts as we consider our response to the use of chemical weapons.
'What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. 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. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.
'The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict on Syria itself. And that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all, a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else.
'There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons, and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.
'Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos -- the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the the human suffering that they lay out before us.
'As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him, the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms, human suffering that we can never ignore or forget. Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass.
'What is before us today is real, and it is compelling.
'So I also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscience and guided by common sense. The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the firsthand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground, like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission -- these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria.
'Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses.
'We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead.
'Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up. At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night. And as Ban Ki- moon said last week, the U.N. investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used, a judgement that is already clear to the world.
'I spoke on Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Muallem, and I made it very clear to him that if the regime, as he argued, had nothing to hide, then their response should be immediate: immediate transparency, immediate access, not shelling. Their response needed to be unrestricted and immediate access. Failure to permit that, I told him, would tell its own story.
'Instead, for five days the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them. Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence. That is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons. In fact, the regime’s belated decision to allow access is too late and is too late to be credible.
'Today’s reports of an attack on the U.N. investigators, together with the continued shelling of these very neighborhoods, only further weakens the regime’s credibility. At President Obama’s direction, I’ve spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. The administration is actively consulting with members of Congress, and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead. President Obama has also been in close touch with the leaders of our key allies, and the president will be making an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons.
'But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.
President Assad's regime fired more than 600 canisters during its deadly chemical weapons attack on a suburb of Damascus, a Syrian witness has claimed.
Offering an insight into the ferocity of the onslaught, the resident told how 12 tanks and 100 soldiers were also involved in the attack that has left as many as 1,300 civilians dead.
The Syrian gave his account to United Nations inspectors as it emerged the team of chemical weapons experts had been ‘deliberately shot at’ several times by unidentified marksmen as they travelled in a convoy to the site of the atrocities.
The car at the front was damaged by gunfire and was forced to come to a halt. Its passengers were rushed to safety, but no-one was reported injured.
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An image from a video uploaded on YouTube by Moadamiyet al-Sham media centre allegedly shows United Nations arms experts in Damascus as they investigate an alleged chemical weapons strike in the capital
The head of UN inspectors, Professor Ake Sellstrom (right), and Angela Kane, the representative on the United Nations for Disarmament Issues, leave the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus
An image from a video shows an opposition fighter firing an rocket propelled grenade during clashes with regime forces over the strategic area of Khanasser, situated on the only road linking Aleppo to central Syria
On the attack: Rebels have in recent days captured several villages in Aleppo province, much of which is already in the hands of anti-regime fighters
NORTH KOREA 'TRIED TO SHIP GAS MASKS TO ASSAD'S FORCES'
North Korea tried to ship gas masks to Syria for use by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, it was claimed today.
A ship carrying an unspecified number of gas masks, along with 1,400 rifles and pistols as well as 30,000 bullets was stopped by Turkey shortly after it sailed through the Dardanelles.
American authorities said they believed the Libyan-registered vessel, identified as Al En Ti Sar, which left North Korea earlier this year, was due to unload its cargo in Turkey and send it overland to Syria.
The masks, said officials, were clearly for protection against chemicals, but the belief they were for use by the regime still failed to definitively answer whether it was the government or the opposition which was behind the gas attack near Damascus last week.
A report by Japan's authoritative Sankei Shimbun newspaper today said that Turkey detained the ship's captain and later charged him after he admitted his vessel was on its way from North Korea and was carrying arms bound for Syria.
Pyongyang is barred by United Nations sanctions from trading in weaponry following the secretive nation's nuclear and missile tests.
If the UN is able to confirm that North Korea was sending weapons and gas masks to Syria, Kim Jong-Un's regime could face further sanctions.
Experts believe North Korea and Syria have had a military relationship for a number of years.
There have been widespread reports that North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear plant that was destroyed in a bombing attack by Israel in 2007.
Opposition rebels said the sniper shots were a blatant attempt by the dictator’s henchmen to ‘intimidate’ inspectors who are trying to discover who was responsible for last week’s poison gas attack.
But President Bashar al-Assad’s regime immediately blamed ‘terrorists’ for the shooting.
The defiant leader also insisted his forces had not carried out any chemical attack, and warned the U.S. that it would suffer ‘failure’ like ‘Vietnam’ if it launched missiles into Syria. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry has set the stage for military intervention by demanding accountability from the Syrian regime for the 'undeniable' and 'inexcusable' toxic gas attack against civilians.
He said: 'What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world.
'Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.
'Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.'
Attack: The UN weapons inspectors were 'deliberately shot at' several times by unidentified marksmen as they travelled in a convoy to the site of the atrocities in a suburb of Damascus
Shot: Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, condemned the incident - in a no man's land between government and rebel-controlled territory - as 'outrageous'
Bullet hole: The car at the front was damaged by gunfire and was forced to come to a halt. Its passengers were rushed to safety, but no-one was reported injured. A bullet hole can be seen below the headlight
Reason: President Bashar al-Assad's regime immediately blamed 'terrorists' for the shooting (file picture)
21 MEMBERS OF THE SAME FAMILY DIE IN CHEMICAL ATTACKS
A family has reportedly lost 21 members in the chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Zamalka.
According to a relative of the Waked clan who lives in Israel, a total of 12 women and girls and nine men and boys were killed in the atrocity.
The oldest was 68 and the youngest around 10 years old.
Five others are in a critical condition and fifteen became sick, Walid Gazi Waked told The Washington Post.
Another relative, Jamal Waked, fears that because religious custom demands bodies be shrouded quickly, some of his family may buried alive in the chaos when they simply unconscious.
The Waked family, which now numbers several thousand, originally settled in Palestine before fleeing to Syria after the 1948Arab-Israeli War and settling in Zamalka.
Washington has postponed talks on an international peace conference for Syria, underlining growing diplomatic tensions over the civil war.
The U.S. State Department said on Monday it had postponed the meeting between senior diplomats, scheduled for Wednesday in The Hague, because of 'ongoing consultations' over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Russia, Assad's key ally and arms supplier, said today it regretted the decision.
'It is regrettable that our partners decided to postpone the Russia-U.S. meeting on calling an international conference on Syria,' Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, who would have taken part in the talks, said on Twitter.
'Working out the political parameters for a resolution in Syria would be exceptionally useful now, when the threat of (military) force hangs over this country.'
Russia says rebel forces may have been behind the attack and has urged Washington not to use military force against Assad.
Tony Blair has also demanded that Britain and the United States launch military action.
On the move: United Nations vehicles transport a team of UN chemical weapons experts to the scene of a poison gas attack outside the Syrian capital last week, in Damascus yesterday
Investigation: The convoy of UN inspectors is seen leaving the Four Seasons hotel in Damascus, Syria
The former Prime Minister compared the violent Ashar al-Assad regime and its murdering of its own citizens with chemical weapons to the 'dark days of Saddam'.
Mr Blair, who took Britain to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, said this morning that it is 'time we took sides'.
This morning David Cameron returned early from his Cornish holiday to consider whether to recall Parliament.
MPs are demanding a binding vote over plans to launch missile strikes on Syria without the backing of the United Nations.
NAVY TASK FORCE ON STANDBY
A Royal Navy task force with 1,200 heavily-armed Marines is on standby in the eastern Mediterranean.
The rapid reaction flotilla of ten warships is ready to assist if planned missile strikes by Britain and the US take place.
It came as a British nuclear-powered submarine capable of firing precision-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles up to 1,500 miles was reportedly spotted surfacing off Gibraltar.
The Trafalgar-class boat was visible off the Rock - at the entrance to the Med - for 30 minutes on Saturday.
Iran has warned that foreign military intervention in Syria will result in a conflict that would engulf the region.
Earlier, Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, condemned the shooting on the UN weapons inspectors – in a no man’s land between government and rebel-controlled territory – as ‘outrageous’.
He said: ‘The first vehicle of the chemical weapons investigation team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area.
'As the car was no longer serviceable, the team returned safely back to the government checkpoint.’
The UN team later resumed its mission and entered the western district of Muadhamiya – one of five rebel-held locations attacked with chemical weapons on Wednesday – to gather evidence.
The experts spent three hours at a makeshift hospital meeting doctors and taking soil, blood, urine and tissue samples from victims for testing.
One resident was heard on video, which could not be verified, telling an inspector of heavy raids on the district, with ‘over 600 canister strikes...12 tanks, 100 soldiers,’ said the BBC.
The inspectors, wearing blue body armour, then returned to their hotel. They are expected to resume their work today.
The sniper attack happened after Assad’s regime gave permission for the UN to visit the site of the suspected attacks five days after it happened.
Probe: This image taken from an amateur video posted online appears to show a presumed UN staff member measuring and photographing a canister in the suburb of Moadamiyeh in Damascus
Recovery: UN chemical weapons experts visit a hospital where wounded people affected by an apparent gas attack are being treated, in the south-western Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya
Despite a temporary ceasefire being agreed, the 20-strong inspection team came under fire shortly after leaving their hotel.
David Cameron believes Syria deliberately stalled on letting the UN experts visit the site of the massacre.
The longer the delay before inspectors reach the spots where rockets carrying nerve agents killed hundreds of people, the more likely it is evidence could have been tampered with, degraded or destroyed.
'They can start a war but they will not know where it will spread or how it will end. Superpowers can launch wars but they cannot win them'
Bashar al-Assad, Syrian President
Wassim al-Ahmad, a member of main opposition Syrian National Coalition, said pro-Assad militia had fired at the inspectors to prevent them entering Muadhamiya.
He said the regime wanted to ‘intimidate the UN team and prevent it from discovering the truth about Assad’s chemical weapons attack against civilians’.
The US said there was no doubt that Syrian forces used chemical weapons in the attacks.
Secretary of State John Kerry called last week’s attack a ‘moral obscenity’ that should shock the conscience of the world.
But Assad dismissed the accusation of a chemical attack as a ‘politically-motivated... insult to common sense’ because the regime had troops nearby.
The tyrant also told a Russian newspaper that a military campaign against his country will not succeed.
He said: ‘They can start a war but they will not know where it will spread or how it will end. Superpowers can launch wars but they cannot win them.
‘Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day.’
Assad’s foreign minister said airstrikes against Syria would trigger ‘chaos in the world’.