‘Dragging Their Feet’: US Struggling to Make Assad Turn Over Chemical Weapons On Time

Photo Credit: Fox News No longer facing the imminent threat of a U.S. military strike, the Assad regime is dragging its feet on relinquishing its chemical weapons — leaving U.S. officials scrambling to pressure the Syrian government to honor the terms of last year’s deal.

The Obama administration acknowledged on Thursday that the regime has shipped out less than 5 percent of its chemical arms. The country is weeks behind schedule, and may miss next week’s deadline to ship all its chemical agents out of the country.

This, despite President Obama declaring in his State of the Union address that Syria’s chemical weapons “are being eliminated” thanks to American diplomacy.

The administration still hopes diplomacy will prevail. It also may have few other options, with little appetite in Congress for military intervention.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday that officials are working with partners to “keep up the pressure” on the regime.

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Syria Claims Win in Weapons Deal

U.S. Forces Battle Rising Insurgency In IraqA high-ranking Syrian official called the U.S.-Russian agreement on securing Syria’s chemical weapons a “victory” for President Bashar Assad’s regime, but the United States warned on Sunday “the threat of force is real” if Damascus fails to carry out the plan.

The comments by Syrian Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar to a Russian state news agency were the first by a senior Syrian government official on the deal struck a day earlier in Geneva. Under the agreement, Syria will provide an inventory of its chemical arsenal within one week and hand over all of the components of its program by mid-2014.

“We welcome these agreements,” Haidar was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti agency. “On the one hand, they will help Syrians get out of the crisis, and on the other hand, they averted a war against Syria by removing the pretext for those who wanted to unleash one.”

He added: “These agreements are a credit to Russian diplomacy and the Russian leadership. This is a victory for Syria, achieved thanks to our Russian friends.”

There has been no official statement from the Syrian government.

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Assad Tells Obama to Stop Arming Rebels, or No Deal

Photo Credit: AP/SANA

Photo Credit: AP/SANA

President Obama must promise not to arm rebel forces or Syrian dictator Bashar Assad will not hand over his chemical weapons, the embattled leader told a Russian state media outlet today while demanding that Israel also surrender its nuclear arsenal.

“When we see that the U.S. genuinely stands for stability in our region, stops threatening us with military intervention and stops supplying terrorists with weapons, then we will consider it possible to finalize all necessary procedures and they will become legitimate and acceptable for Syria,” Assad told RIA News.

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Rand Paul: Obama Didn’t Convince Me

rand-paul9326Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, said President Barack Obama “didn’t quite convince me” on the need to launch a military strike on Syria in his Tuesday night speech.

But Paul said Obama did make a compelling case that Syrian President Bashar Assad is guilty of killing almost 1,500 civilians with poison gas last month.

“If Assad is responsible he deserves death for this,” Paul told Fox News Channel after the Tuesday night speech. “But the president’s plan is to leave Assad alone,” Paul said on a later CNN appearance.

Paul said he thinks Assad will not be held accountable for the chemical weapons attack. And even if the diplomatic solution Russia is trying to broker goes through, Assad still will be left in office, he added.

Though the video images of children dead and dying showed a clear atrocity, Paul said he couldn’t support U.S. action unless there was a compelling American interest…

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Iran Threatens Brutal Attacks on Americans, Obama Family if US Hits Syria (+video)

Photo Credit: Daily Caller

Photo Credit: Daily Caller

As Congress debates whether to support President Obama’s call for a limited strike against Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons, Iran is vowing to back Bashar al-Assad’s regime to the hilt and threatening to unleash terrorism should the U.S. strike.

Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Forces, Wednesday told the Assembly of Experts — the body that chooses the supreme leader — that “[w]e will support Syria to the end.”

And in an unprecedented statement, a former Iranian official has warned of mass abductions and brutal killings of American citizens around the world and the rape and killing of one of Obama’s daughters should the United States attack Syria.

Alireza Forghani, the former governor of southern Iran’s Kish Province, threw down the gauntlet last week. Forghani is an analyst and strategy specialist in the supreme leader’s camp and closely aligned with Mehdi Taeb, who heads the regime’s Ammar Strategic Base, a radical think thank, and thus speaks with the blessing of the Islamic regime.

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President Obama: America’s Credibility on the Line in Syria (+video)

Photo Credit: Washington Examiner

Photo Credit: Washington Examiner

President Barack Obama warned Wednesday that the international community’s credibility — though not his — is at risk if there’s no response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, though he expects Congress to agree to take military action against Bashar Assad’s regime.

“My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line,” Obama said at a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden. “And America and Congress’s credibility is on the line.”

Obama’s comments came during a joint appearance with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, ahead of his brief trip to the G20 summit in Russia, where he’s expected to continue pushing for international support for intervention in Syria, even with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who remains allied with Assad.

The president deflected attention from his own role in potential action against Syria as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel headed into a second day of public and private consultations on Capitol Hill, including an open hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Obama said he is confident that Congress will authorize military involvement — and despite some vocal opposition, there were signs Wednesday that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will pass a Syria resolution.

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Obama, Biden, Kerry, Hagel, Clinton Backed ‘Reformer’ Assad During Bush Administration

Photo Credit: AFP

Photo Credit: AFP

Kerry’s cozy dinner with Syria’s ‘Hitler’: Secretary of State and the man he likened to German dictator are pictured dining with their wives at Damascus restaurant before civil war broke out

By Anthony Bond and David Martosko.

An astonishing photograph of John Kerry having a cozy and intimate dinner with Bashar al-Assad has emerged at the moment the U.S Secretary of State is making the case to bomb the Syrian dictator’s country and remove him from power.

Kerry, who compared Assad to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein yesterday, is pictured around a small table with his wife Teresa Heinz and the Assads in 2009.

Assad and Kerry, then a Massachusetts senator, lean in towards each other and appear deep in conversation as their spouses look on.

A waiter is pictured at their side with a tray of green drinks, believed to be lemon and crushed mint.

The picture was likely taken in February 2009 in the Naranj restaurant in Damascus, when Kerry led a delegation to Syria to discuss finding a way forward for peace in the region.

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Photo Credit: EPA

Photo Credit: EPA

Excerpted from Washington Times: The Obama national security team that wants to go to war with Syria and demonizes President Bashar Assad is the same group that, as senators, urged reaching out to the dictator.

As a bloc on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, President Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Vice President Joseph R. Biden all opposed the George W. Bush administration’s playing tough with Mr. Assad.

None grew closer to Mr. Assad and promoted him in Washington more than Mr. Kerry.

“President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had,” Mr. Kerry, as a senator from Massachusetts, told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in March 2011. He predicted that Mr. Assad would change for the better.

But that same month, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in Syria that would lead to a civil war, unmasking Mr. Assad’s brutal tactics, including the Aug. 21 unleashing of nerve gas that killed more than 1,400 civilians.

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Saudi Offers Russia Deal to Scale Back Assad Support

Photo Credit: Reuters Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria’s devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war and any change in Moscow’s stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia’s position as a main gas supplier to Europe.

In return, Saudi Arabia wanted Moscow to ease its strong support of Assad and agree not to block any future Security Council Resolution on Syria, they said.

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Obama’s Arab Spring Continues: Now the Kurds Fighting Al Qaeda-linked Rebels in Syria, Receiving Fire from the Turks, Too

Photo Credit: ReutersIslamist-Kurdish fighting spreads in rebel-held Syria

By Erika Solomon. The local commander of a Syrian rebel group affiliated to al Qaeda was freed on Sunday after being held by Kurdish forces in a power struggle between rival organizations fighting President Bashar al-Assad, activists said…

Sporadic fighting over the past five days in towns near the frontier with Turkey has pitted Islamists trying to cement their control of rebel zones against Kurds trying to assert their autonomy in mostly Kurdish areas…

To the north, activists reported Turkish troops reinforcing their side of the frontier near Tel Abyad, but the army could not be reached for comment. Turkish forces exchanged fire with Syrian Kurdish fighters in another border region earlier in the week…

The ethnic Kurdish minority has been alternately battling both Assad’s forces and the Islamist-dominated rebels. Kurds argue they support the revolt but rebels accuse them of making deals with the government in order to ensure their security and autonomy during the conflict.

The Kurdish people, scattered over the territories of Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, are often described as the world’s largest ethnic community without a state of their own. Read more from this story HERE.


Photo Credit: BBC/GettySyria’s Assad is stronger now, says David Cameron

By Nicholas Watt. David Cameron has admitted that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has strengthened his position in recent months, and warned that the country faces a “depressing trajectory”.

In an interview on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, the prime minister gave his clearest indication to date that Britain will not be supplying arms to the Syrian rebels despite pressing for the lifting of the EU arms embargo.

Cameron insisted he was still committed to helping the Syrian opposition, but admitted its numbers included “a lot of bad guys”. He also acknowledged that Assad had strengthened his position.

The prime minister said: “I think he may be stronger than he was a few months ago, but I’d still describe the situation as a stalemate. And yes, you do have problems with part of the opposition that is extreme, that we should have nothing to do with.”

But Cameron said it would be wrong to abandon the opposition, although he indicated Britain would provide only non-lethal equipment. Read more from this story HERE.

Was Israel’s Latest ‘Air’ Attack on Syria from a Submarine?

Photo Credit: Weekly StandardAn attack two weeks ago that destroyed an advanced Russian missile shipment delivered to Syria’s Assad regime should also serve as a warning to Iran – and to those complacent Western diplomats who have (dangerously in my view) reconciled themselves to the idea of allowing Iran to go nuclear and then trying to contain it. For it seems that the July 5 attack on an arms depot near the Syrian naval base of Latakia, which has been attributed to Israel, came not from the air (as CNN and the New York Times reported last weekend) but from under the water.

Many Western officials who have apparently concluded that Israel could only destroy Iran’s nuclear program from the air – and that Israel does not have the capability to carry out such long-range air strikes in a decisive way – should take note. In recent years, Israel has greatly advanced its sea-based capabilities, and the geographical range of operations that Israel can mount from the sea, I am reliably told, now spans the entire globe. Israeli submarines are no longer confining themselves to the Mediterranean.

Last Saturday, the United States appeared to confirm that Israel was behind the July 5 attack on 50 Russian Yakhont anti-ship missiles in Latakia. Both the New York Times and CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying the strike was carried out by Israel from the air. The state-of-the-art Yakhont missiles have a range of 300 kilometers and are considered to be among the best of their kind in the world – for example, they can evade radar by flying just above water surface. They were of significant concern to both the U.S. and Israel because their range and sophistication meant they could neutralize the ability of both nations’ navies to patrol the region, and they could also complicate the ability of the U.S. or other states to enforce a future no-fly zone over Syria should they wish to implement one. Israel was also concerned that Syria would allow the missiles to fall into the hands of its arch enemy, the Iranian-controlled Hezbollah militia.

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