US: Chemical attacks make Syria top security risk

Obama administration pledged that any U.S. military action in Syria will be very narrow and limited in its mission.
Associated Press
Sep 5, 2013

For the first time in more than two years of a bloody civil war, President Barack Obama has declared Syria a national security threat that must be answered with a military strike — and in doing so he is warning Americans as much about the leaders of Iran and North Korea as about Bashar Assad.

America's credibility with those countries will be an immediate casualty if it stands down now on Syria, administration officials say in making their case for U.S. missile strikes.

Following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, the White House declared Syria's 2-year civil war a top risk to American interests. If the U.S. fails to respond, officials said this week, it could encourage other hostile governments to use or develop weapons of mass destruction without fear of being punished.

It's a connection that's not immediately clear to many Americans — especially after the White House refused to send military support earlier in the Syrian war. The recent chemical weapons attack killed 1,429 people, U.S. intelligence officials say. Other estimates are somewhat lower. The wider war has killed more than 100,000.

In House and Senate hearings this week designed to seek congressional approval to strike Assad 's government — probably with cruise missiles but not with ground troops — top administration officials pleaded with skeptical lawmakers to consider the risks of doing nothing.

"Iran is hoping you look the other way," Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Our inaction would surely give them a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test. Hezbollah is hoping that isolationism will prevail. North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day."

"They are all listening for our silence," Kerry said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel raised the possibility that Assad's chemical weapons stockpile, considered one of the world's largest, could be seized by his allies, including the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. "We cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist groups determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use these chemical weapons," Hagel told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Vali Nasr, a former senior official in Obama's State Department, said Syria's spiraling death toll, the rise of fighters in Syria associated with al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and pressure on neighboring nations from a flood of refugees have already threatened U.S. security interests for years.

"For a very long time we reduced Syria to just a humanitarian tragedy that, as bad as it was, was not a sufficient cause for American involvement," said Nasr, now dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "That meant we ignored all the other ways in which Syria was a national security threat. And for two years we tried to minimize the impact of Syria, and now all of a sudden the administration finds itself in the position of having to give sufficient urgency to Syria to justify action."

Over the past two years, the White House has mightily resisted intervening in Syria's civil war with U.S. military force. A year ago, Obama signaled the one "red line" exception would be the use of chemical weapons.

At the same time, the U.S. has used a heavy hand in years of negotiations with Iran as world powers try to persuade Tehran to significantly scale back its nuclear program, and seek to prevent its ability to build a bomb.

And Washington has repeatedly and sternly warned North Korea against launching underground nuclear tests and missiles that have rattled its regional neighbors and raised concerns that Pyongyang is building a nuclear-tipped rocket that can reach the United States.

"Iran and North Korea are carefully watching our next move," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said during the House hearing Wednesday. "A refusal to act in Syria after the president has set such a clear red line will be seen as a green light by the Iranian regime, who will see that we don't have the will to back up our words."

The administration's credibility was already at risk, however, after its muted response to a series of small-scale chemical weapons attacks this spring in Syria that killed a few dozen people.

As a result of those attacks, Obama pledged in June to increase aid to certain vetted rebel groups fighting Assad in a package that officials said included some weapons. But the aid did not start flowing until very recently and, overall, fell far short of being seen as a decisive or forceful action to punish Assad for the attacks.

Kerry on Wednesday said the scope of the August attacks — and strong intelligence indicating that Assad's government was to blame — convinced Obama that his red line had been crossed. Before now, "the president didn't want to rush into something," Kerry said.

The administration is alone in claiming such a high death toll, citing intelligence reports but refusing to be more specific. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists in Syria, said over the weekend that it has been compiling a list of the names of the dead and that its toll reached 502.

Obama, in Russia on Thursday for a world leaders' economic summit, has insisted that his red line merely mirrors that of an international treaty banning the use of chemicals weapons. The treaty has been signed by more than 180 countries, including Iran and Russia — two of Assad's key supporters.

Still, recent polls indicate meager support among Americans for using military force in Syria, and many lawmakers, including Obama's fellow Democrats, remain unconvinced.

"I see this potential bombing campaign as a potential next step toward full-fledged war," said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who voted against the Senate panel's plan to allow military force in Syria.

Alluding to U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have cost lives and money for more than a decade, Udall added: "We have been here before."

Mindful of the president's intended legacies of ending the war in Iraq and winding down the one in Afghanistan, the Obama administration recently has rejected any comparisons to Iraq, pledging that any U.S. military action will be very narrow and limited in its mission.

But in pressing the urgency in Syria, the administration reached back to the specter of 9/11 attacks — which killed almost 3,000 people 12 years ago next week — as an example of the danger of inaction.

U.S. intelligence officials warned for years before 2001 of a need to curb al-Qaida's threat before it could spread.

"What can I tell my constituents about why these strikes are in our national security interest? Why these matter to these folks who are struggling every day?" Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., asked at the House hearing.

Hagel cited "a clear, living example of how we are not insulated from the rest of the world, how things can happen to the United States in this country if we are not vigilant, and think through these things, and stay ahead of these things, and take action to prevent these things from occurring."

"Maybe something would not happen in this country for a couple of years," Hagel said. "But the 9/11 anniversary, I think, is a very clear example you can use with your constituents."

 

Comments

JohnDorian12

If they're going to be narrow and limited, then why do anything???? So Obama can save face by attacking a country filled with terrorist, I mean it's not HIS money he's spending, these aren't his sons or daughters he's sending in to fight someone else's fight again...lets sit this one out maybe the terrorists will eliminate themselves for us

bullydogs1971

BREAKING! Former Turkish Provincial Official “Chemical Weapons Sent From Turkey to Syria”

http://syrianfreepress.wordpress...

bullydogs1971

Guest Post: 10 Chemical Weapons Attacks The U.S. Government Doesn’t Want You To Know About
1. The U.S. Military Dumped 20 Million Gallons of Chemicals on Vietnam from 1962 – 1971
2. Israel Attacked Palestinian Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2008 – 2009
3. Washington Attacked Iraqi Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2004
4. The CIA Helped Saddam Hussein Massacre Iranians and Kurds with Chemical Weapons in 1988
5. The Army Tested Chemicals on Residents of Poor, Black St. Louis Neighborhoods in The 1950s
6. Police Fired Tear Gas at Occupy Protesters in 2011
7. The FBI Attacked Men, Women, and Children With Tear Gas in Waco in 1993
8. The U.S. Military Littered Iraq with Toxic Depleted Uranium in 2003
9. The U.S. Military Killed Hundreds of Thousands of Japanese Civilians with Napalm from 1944 – 1945
10. The U.S. Government Dropped Nuclear Bombs on Two Japanese Cities in 1945

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/20...

badboy

Reference #1. I can attest to that. Myself and my fellow Marines are living proof......except for those who have passed away from the complications of Agent Orange.

badboy

The "top risk to our security" is the POTUS himself.

arnmcrmn

Obie can't even muster up enough liberals in Washington to make this happen so he will soon be going to the TV to try and get American's fired up. Teleprompter here we come.

Contango

Enjoyed this picture of Pres. Obama with a "teleprompter helmet":

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/20...

The Big Dog's back

Funny to see all these war mongering right wingnuts flip flopping. Flip-Floppers.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

To be fair, Big Dog, we can replace war with peace and right with left.

I don't see this as a popular option with many people. From what I see, read, and hear (and with young people, too) this is not a popular nor necessary choice. Unfortunately I also see people straining between their own beliefs or those of their constituents and what a party is telling them.

It is difficult and I hope you see this said in the light of supporting those in the Democratic party who don't want this for very good reasons. No party should tell them how to think nor vote and I hope they will remain as much the independent thinkers as many claim they are.

I am hoping cooler heads will prevail over wagon-circling and so far it appears that is the case. This may also very well be a bonding moment between the two parties, which is something that is SORELY needed.

The Big Dog's back

In case you haven't figured it out, and by your posts I see you haven't, these people (right wingnuts) are against anything Obama is for. Take that to the bank.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Opposing out of spite is quite immature and frankly amateur for someone in an elected position. So, as I am not one to excuse behavior to cover for a party, if any Republicans are doing it for that reason then shame on them. Please let me know which one is and I will join you in your protest!

Also shame on Democrats who personally oppose this but will vote with the President to save party/presidential face. If you want to root them out, I will also aid you. This issue is one that shouldn't be as hard as it is to figure out, but everything being put out is seemingly knee-jerk reactions or stalling to find justified excuses to take action.

Huron_1969

Well said HZ, well said

Contango

Re: "these people (right wingnuts) are against anything Obama is for."

So you support your Pres.'s military action in Syria putz?

Donegan

http://www.massviolence.org/The-...
Funny to see a poster named after a president who IGNORED a gas attack cheering for it. For gods sake if you feel so strongly be the first to sacrifice yourself for your god and go over to syria, I am sure your terrorist friends you want to help will welcome you with open arms.

arnmcrmn

No big dog...Im not for a pointless war. We liberated the Iraqi people thanks to Bush's strong and long plan. What Obama wants to do is comparable to taking a cup of water out of lake erie and then tell you he "changed the lake". Its all BS smoke and mirrors.

This war would be similar to nearly everything Obama related. Thrown together last minute without any thought of the outcome. Call this Syriacare.

The Big Dog's back

Liberated the Iraqi people? Are you posting that with a straight face or is it just sarcasm?

Contango

Re: "Liberated the Iraqi people?"

The Kurds are appreciative.

So putz, you support your Pres.'s military action in Syria?

Donegan
Contango

Pres. Obama is a puppet for the Saudis:

"The only key Arab nations supporting Obama are Saudi Arabia and Qatar and that is all about the pipeline blocked by Syria."

A MUST READ:

http://armstrongeconomics.com/20...

kURTje

Know your history - nice plagiarism winnie. Facts are most Germans sold out to Hitler. Most far right Americans liked Hitler prior to WW2. He was Time Magazine Man of the Year. (Prescott Bush/T-4 program) Figures don't lie, but liars figure.

grumpy

Thank you for providing back up sources for your conjecture... oh wait...

juannbi

Americans are WAR WEARY !!!! We have so many problems here at home

juannbi

Americans are WAR WEARY !!!! We have so many problems here at home

kURTje

Man of the year Time Magazine 1938.

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