Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Key Documents and Comments / The Syrian Chemical Weapons Crisis

I'm reviewing for content and criticism several of the key documents to come up in the last few days with regards to the Syrian Revolution, the alleged chemical weapons use, the United Nations, the great powers, and just about everything else that's relevant.  If you want to check out some previous commentary on the subject first, it is available here. 

Legend

Black text in Times New Roman font represents original documentary material.

Red text in Ariel font represents commentary by Dr. Smith.

Black text in Times New Roman highlighted in yellow represents key sections of the original documentary material.

More after the jump ....




The following document for two reasons - first, it is referred to explicitly in Secretary Kerry's remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee, but more importantly because, from what I can tell, this is the "law of the land" at present with regards to foreign relations with Syria - as such it fundamentally defines the limits of action President Obama may take with regards to Syria unless it presents a clear and immediate danger to the United States or its formal allies (at least within the context of American law).  

HR 1828 / Public Law 108-175
Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003
Introduced April 12, 2003
Signed into Law December 12, 2003


An Act To halt Syrian support for terrorism, end its occupation of Lebanon, and stop its development of weapons of mass destruction, and by so doing hold Syria accountable for the serious international security problems it has caused in the Middle East, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003'.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) On June 24, 2002, President Bush stated `Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist camps and expelling terrorist organizations'.

(2) United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (September 28, 2001) mandates that all states `refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts', take `the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts', and `deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts'.

(3) The Government of Syria is currently prohibited by United States law from receiving United States assistance because it has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism, as determined by the Secretary of State for purposes of section 6(j)(1) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. App. 2405(j)(1)) and other relevant provisions of law.

(4) Although the Department of State lists Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism and reports that Syria provides `safe haven and support to several terrorist groups', fewer United States sanctions apply with respect to Syria than with respect to any other country that is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

(5) Terrorist groups, including Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command, maintain offices, training camps, and other facilities on Syrian territory, and operate in areas of Lebanon occupied by the Syrian armed forces and receive supplies from Iran through Syria.

(6) United Nations Security Council Resolution 520 (September 17, 1982) calls for `strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon'.

(7) Approximately 20,000 Syrian troops and security personnel occupy much of the sovereign territory of Lebanon exerting undue influence upon its government and undermining its political independence.

(8) Since 1990 the Senate and House of Representatives have passed seven bills and resolutions which call for the withdrawal of Syrian armed forces from Lebanon.

(9) On March 3, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that it is the objective of the United States to `let Lebanon be ruled by the Lebanese people without the presence of [the Syrian] occupation army'.

(10) Large and increasing numbers of the Lebanese people from across the political spectrum in Lebanon have mounted peaceful and democratic calls for the withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanese soil.

(11) Israel has withdrawn all of its armed forces from Lebanon in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 (March 19, 1978), as certified by the United Nations Secretary General.

(12) Even in the face of this United Nations certification that acknowledged Israel's full compliance with Security Council Resolution 425, Syrian- and Iranian-supported Hizballah continues to attack Israeli outposts at Shebaa Farms, under the pretense that Shebaa Farms is territory from which Israel was required to withdraw by Security Counsel Resolution 425, and Syrian- and Iranian-supported Hizballah and other militant organizations continue to attack civilian targets in Israel.

(13) Syria will not allow Lebanon--a sovereign country--to fulfill its obligation in accordance with Security Council Resolution 425 to deploy its troops to southern Lebanon.

(14) As a result, the Israeli-Lebanese border and much of southern Lebanon is under the control of Hizballah, which continues to attack Israeli positions, allows Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other militant groups to operate freely in the area, and maintains thousands of rockets along Israel's northern border, destabilizing the entire region.

(15) On February 12, 2003, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet stated the following with respect to the Syrian- and Iranian-supported Hizballah: `[A]s an organization with capability and worldwide presence [it] is [al Qaeda's] equal if not a far more capable organization * * * [T]hey're a notch above in many respects, in terms of in their relationship with the Iranians and the training they receive, [which] puts them in a state-sponsored category with a potential for lethality that's quite great.'.

(16) In the State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, President Bush declared that the United States will `work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction'.

(17) The Government of Syria continues to develop and deploy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

(18) According to the December 2001 unclassified Central Intelligence Agency report entitled `Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat through 2015', `Syria maintains a ballistic missile and rocket force of hundreds of FROG rockets, Scuds, and SS-21 SRBMs [and] Syria has developed [chemical weapons] warheads for its Scuds'.

(19) The Government of Syria is pursuing the development and production of biological and chemical weapons and has a nuclear research and development program that is cause for concern.

(20) According to the Central Intelligence Agency's `Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions', released January 7, 2003: `[Syria] already holds a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin but apparently is trying to develop more toxic and persistent nerve agents. Syria remains dependent on foreign sources for key elements of its [chemical weapons] program, including precursor chemicals and key production equipment. It is highly probable that Syria also is developing an offensive [biological weapons] capability.'.

 (21) On May 6, 2002, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, stated: `The United States also knows that Syria has long had a chemical warfare program. It has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and is engaged in research and development of the more toxic and persistent nerve agent VX. Syria, which has signed but not ratified the [Biological Weapons Convention], is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents.'.

(22) According to the Central Intelligence Agency's `Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions', released January 7, 2003: `Russia and Syria have approved a draft cooperative program on cooperation on civil nuclear power. In principal, broader access to Russian expertise provides opportunities for Syria to expand its indigenous capabilities, should it decide to pursue nuclear weapons.'.

(23) Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (21 UST 483), which entered force on March 5, 1970, and to which Syria is a party, Syria has undertaken not to acquire or produce nuclear weapons and has accepted full scope safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency to detect diversions of nuclear materials from peaceful activities to the production of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

The articles in this section of the bill are important in that they specifically develop a case that Syria was developing, manufacuturing, and stockpiling chemical weapons and delivery systems for these weapons in opposition of both American interests and the will of the interstate community with the specific implication that these policies are unacceptable - though the general tenor seems to lean towards policies of nondiscourse rather than forcible disarmament.  It is also worth noting that Russia is already implicated in these

(24) Syria is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention or the Biological Weapons Convention, which entered into force on April 29, 1997, and on March 26, 1975, respectively.

(25) Syrian President Bashar Assad promised Secretary of State Powell in February 2001 to end violations of Security Council Resolution 661, which restricted the sale of oil and other commodities by Saddam Hussein's regime, except to the extent authorized by other relevant resolutions, but this pledge was never fulfilled.

(26) Syria's illegal imports and transshipments of Iraqi oil during Saddam Hussein's regime earned Syria $50,000,000 or more per month as Syria continued to sell its own Syrian oil at market prices.

(27) Syria's illegal imports and transshipments of Iraqi oil earned Saddam Hussein's regime $2,000,000 per day.

(28) On March 28, 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned: `[W]e have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles. These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts, and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments.'.

(29) According to Article 23(1) of the United Nations Charter, members of the United Nations are elected as nonpermanent members of the United Nations Security Council with `due regard being specially paid, in the first instance to the contribution of members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to other purposes of the Organization'.

(30) Despite Article 23(1) of the United Nations Charter, Syria was elected on October 8, 2001, to a 2-year term as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council beginning January 1, 2002, and served as President of the Security Council during June 2002 and August 2003.

(31) On March 31, 2003, the Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouq al-Sharra, made the Syrian regime's intentions clear when he explicitly stated that `Syria's interest is to see the invaders defeated in Iraq'.

(32) On April 13, 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld charged that `busloads' of Syrian fighters entered Iraq with `hundreds of thousands of dollars' and leaflets offering rewards for dead American soldiers.

(33) On September 16, 2003, the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, appeared before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia of the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives, and underscored Syria's `hostile actions' toward coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Under Secretary Bolton added that: `Syria allowed military equipment to flow into Iraq on the eve of and during the war. Syria permitted volunteers to pass into Iraq to attack and kill our service members during the war, and is still doing so * * * [Syria's] behavior during Operation Iraqi Freedom underscores the importance of taking seriously reports and information on Syria's WMD capabilities.'.

(34) During his appearance before the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives on September 25, 2003, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, III, Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, stated that out of the 278 third-country nationals who were captured by coalition forces in Iraq, the `single largest group are Syrians'.

SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS.

It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) the Government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally halt support for terrorism, permanently and openly declare its total renunciation of all forms of terrorism, and close all terrorist offices and facilities in Syria, including the offices of Hamas, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command;

(2) the Government of Syria should—

(A) immediately and unconditionally stop facilitating transit from Syria to Iraq of individuals, military equipment, and all lethal items, except as authorized by the Coalition Provisional Authority or a representative, internationally recognized Iraqi government;

(B) cease its support for `volunteers' and terrorists who are traveling from and through Syria into Iraq to launch attacks; and

(C) undertake concrete, verifiable steps to deter such behavior and control the use of territory under Syrian control;

(3) the Government of Syria should immediately declare its commitment to completely withdraw its armed forces, including military, paramilitary, and security forces, from Lebanon, and set a firm timetable for such withdrawal;

(4) the Government of Lebanon should deploy the Lebanese armed forces to all areas of Lebanon, including South Lebanon, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 520 (September 17, 1982), in order to assert the sovereignty of the Lebanese state over all of its territory, and should evict all terrorist and foreign forces from southern Lebanon, including Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards;

(5) the Government of Syria should halt the development and deployment of medium- and long-range surface-to-surface missiles and cease the development and production of biological and chemical weapons;

(6) the Governments of Lebanon and Syria should enter into serious unconditional bilateral negotiations with the Government of Israel in order to realize a full and permanent peace;

(7) the United States should continue to provide humanitarian and educational assistance to the people of Lebanon only through appropriate private, nongovernmental organizations and appropriate international organizations, until such time as the Government of Lebanon asserts sovereignty and control over all of its territory and borders and achieves full political independence, as called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 520; and

(8) as a violator of several key United Nations Security Council resolutions and as a nation that pursues policies which undermine international peace and security, Syria should not have been permitted to join the United Nations Security Council or serve as the Security Council's President, and should be removed from the Security Council.

SEC. 4. STATEMENT OF POLICY.

 It is the policy of the United States that—

(1) Syria should bear responsibility for attacks committed by Hizballah and other terrorist groups with offices, training camps, or other facilities in Syria, or bases in areas of Lebanon occupied by Syria;

(2) the United States will work to deny Syria the ability to support acts of international terrorism and efforts to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction;

(3) the Secretary of State will continue to list Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism until Syria ends its support for terrorism, including its support of Hizballah and other terrorist groups in Lebanon and its hosting of terrorist groups in Damascus, and comes into full compliance with United States law relating to terrorism and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (September 28, 2001);

(4) the full restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity is in the national security interest of the United States;

(5) Syria is in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 520 (September 17, 1982) through its continued occupation of Lebanese territory and its encroachment upon Lebanon's political independence;

(6) Syria's obligation to withdraw from Lebanon is not conditioned upon progress in the Israeli-Syrian or Israeli-Lebanese peace process but derives from Syria's obligation under Security Council Resolution 520;

(7) Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs threaten the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;

(8) Syria will be held accountable for any harm to Coalition armed forces or to any United States citizen in Iraq if the government of Syria is found to be responsible due to its facilitation of terrorist activities and its shipments of military supplies to Iraq; and

(9) the United States will not provide any assistance to Syria and will oppose multilateral assistance for Syria until Syria ends all support for terrorism, withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon, and halts the development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction and medium- and long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.

SEC. 5. PENALTIES AND AUTHORIZATION.

(a) PENALTIES-

Until the President makes the determination that Syria meets all the requirements described in paragraphs (1) through (4) of subsection (d) and certifies such determination to Congress in accordance with such subsection-- (1) the President shall prohibit the export to Syria of any item, including the issuance of a license for the export of any item, on the United States Munitions List or Commerce Control List of dual-use items in the Export Administration Regulations (15 CFR part 730 et seq.); and (2) the President shall impose two or more of the following sanctions:

(A) Prohibit the export of products of the United States (other than food and medicine) to Syria.

(B) Prohibit United States businesses from investing or operating in Syria.

(C) Restrict Syrian diplomats in Washington, D.C., and at the United Nations in New York City, to travel only within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C., or the United Nations headquarters building, respectively.

(D) Prohibit aircraft of any air carrier owned or controlled by Syria to take off from, land in, or overfly the United States.

(E) Reduce United States diplomatic contacts with Syria (other than those contacts required to protect United States interests or carry out the purposes of this Act).

(F) Block transactions in any property in which the Government of Syria has any interest, by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

(b) WAIVER- The President may waive the application of subsection (a)(1), (a)(2), or both if the President determines that it is in the national security interest of the United States to do so and submits to the appropriate congressional committees a report containing the reasons for the determination.

(c) AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO SYRIA-

If the President—

(1) makes the determination that Syria meets the requirements described in paragraphs (1) through (4) of subsection (d) and certifies such determination to Congress in accordance with such subsection;

(2) determines that substantial progress has been made both in negotiations aimed at achieving a peace agreement between Israel and Syria and in negotiations aimed at achieving a peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon; and

(3) determines that the Government of Syria is strictly respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese army throughout Lebanon, as required under paragraph

(4) of United Nations Security CouncilResolution 520 (1982), then the President is authorized to provide assistance to Syria under chapter 1 of part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (relating to development assistance). (d)

CERTIFICATION-

A certification under this subsection is a certification transmitted to the appropriate congressional committees of a determination made by the President that—

(1) the Government of Syria has ceased providing support for international terrorist groups and does not allow terrorist groups, such as Hamas, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command to maintain facilities in territory under Syrian control;

(2) the Government of Syria ended its occupation of Lebanon described in section 2(7) of this Act;

(3) the Government of Syria has ceased the development and deployment of medium- and long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, is not pursuing or engaged in the research, development, acquisition, production, transfer, or deployment of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, has provided credible assurances that such behavior will not be undertaken in the future, and has agreed to allow United Nations and other international observers to verify such actions and assurances; and

(4) the Government of Syria has ceased all support for, and facilitation of, all terrorist activities inside of Iraq, including preventing the use of territory under its control by any means whatsoever to support those engaged in terrorist activities inside of Iraq.

SEC. 6. REPORT.

(a) REPORT- Not later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 12 months thereafter until the conditions described in paragraphs (1) through (4) of section 5(d) are satisfied, the Secretary of State shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on—

(1) Syria's progress toward meeting the conditions described in paragraphs (1) through (4) of section 5(d);

(2) connections, if any, between individual terrorists and terrorist groups which maintain offices, training camps, or other facilities on Syrian territory, or operate in areas of Lebanon occupied by the Syrian armed forces, and terrorist attacks on the United States or its citizens, installations, or allies; and

(3) how the United States is increasing its efforts against Hizballah and other terrorist organizations supported by Syria. (b) FORM- The report submitted under subsection (a) shall be in unclassified form but may include a classified annex.

SEC. 7. DEFINITION OF APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES.

In this Act, the term `appropriate congressional committees' means the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.


United Nations Security Council Resolution 2108
Adopted June 27, 2013

Noting

with concern that the situation in the Middle East is tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached,

Having considered

the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement ObserverForce of 12 June 2013 (S/2013/345), and also reaffirming its resolution 1308(2000) of 17 July 2000,

Stressing

that both parties must abide by the terms of the 1974 Disengagement of ForcesAgreement between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic and scrupulously observe the ceasefire,

Concurring

with the Secretary-General’s findings that the ongoing military activities conducted by any actor in the area of separation continue to have the potential to escalate tensions between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic, jeopardize the ceasefire between the two countries, and pose a risk to the local civilian population and United Nations personnel on the ground,

Expressing

grave concern at all violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement,

Recalling

that there should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF,

Calling

on all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict to cease military actions in the UNDOF area of operation,

Strongly condemning

the incidents threatening the safety and security of United Nations personnel in recent months, including the detention of 21 UNDOF peacekeepers within the area of limitation on 6 March by armed elements of the Syrian opposition, the detention of four UNDOF peacekeepers within the area of limitation in the vicinity of Al Jamla on 7 May by armed elements of the Syrian opposition, and the detention of three UNTSO observers on 15 May by a group of anti-government armed elements,

Strongly condemning

the recent intense fighting in the area of separation, including the attack which led to the injury of two UNDOF peacekeepers on 6 June,

Underscoring

the need for UNDOF to have at its disposal all necessary means and resources to carry out its mandate safely and securely,

Expressing

its profound appreciation to UNDOF’s military and civilian personnel, including those from Observer Group Golan, for their service and continued contribution, in an increasingly challenging operating environment, and underscoring the important contribution UNDOF’s continued presence makes to peace and security in the Middle East,

1.

Calls upon the parties concerned to implement immediately its resolution 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973;

2.

Stresses the obligation on both parties to scrupulously and fully respect the terms of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement, calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint and prevent any breaches of the ceasefire and the area of separation, and underscores that there should be no military activity of any kind in the area of separation, including military operations by the Syrian Arab Armed Forces;

3.

Underlines that there should be no military activity of the armed opposition groups in the area of separation, and urges Member States to convey strongly to the Syrian armed opposition groups in UNDOF’s area of operation to halt all activities that endanger United Nations peacekeepers on the ground and to accord the United Nations personnel on the ground the freedom to carry out their mandate safely and securely;

4.

Calls on all parties to cooperate fully with the operations of UNDOF, to respect its privileges and immunities and to ensure its freedom of movement, as well as the security of and unhindered and immediate access for the United Nations personnel carrying out their mandate, including considering the temporary use of an alternative port of entry and departure, as required, to ensure safe and secure troop rotation activities, in conformity with existing agreements, and welcomes prompt reporting by the Secretary-General to the Security Council and troop-contributing countries of any actions that impede UNDOF’s ability to fulfil its mandate;

5.

Stresses the need to enhance the safety and security of UNDOF, including Observer Group Golan, personnel, and endorses in this regard the Secretary-General’s recommendation to consider further adjustments to the posture and operations of the Mission, as well as to implement additional mitigation measures to enhance the self-defence capabilities of UNDOF, including maximizing the Force strength and improving its self-defence equipment, within the parameters set forth in the Protocol to the Disengagement Agreement;

6.

Welcomes the efforts being undertaken by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force to implement the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure full compliance of its personnel with the United Nations code of conduct, requests the Secretary-General to continue to take all necessary action in this regard and to keep the Security Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take preventive and disciplinary action to ensure that such acts are properly investigated and punished in cases involving their personnel;

7.

Decides to renew the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force for a period of six months, that is, until 31 December 2013, and requests the Secretary-General to ensure that UNDOF has the required capacity and resources to fulfil the mandate, as well as to enhance the Force’s ability to do so in a safe and secure way;

8.

Requests the Secretary-General to report every 90 days on developments in the situation and the measures taken to implement resolution 338 (1973).


United States Government Assessment 
of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons
on August 21, 2013
Released August 30, 2013

Source: The White House / Office of the Press Secretary

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.

Background:

The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.

Preparation:

We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

As far as I'm concerned, the paragraph below is one the most interesting of the report - critically it calls into question attempts to pin the attacks on the opposition based upon their limited capabilities; the subtext is clear - sure, it is possible the disestablishmentarians are desperate enough to use chemical weapons to draw the West into the conflict, but this very level of desperation itself is reason to doubt this hypothesis. 

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.


To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.



Transcript / Press Conference
US Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague
September 9, 2013


FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a great pleasure to host my great friend and colleague, John Kerry, here in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office once again.

Of course, we have spent most of our time discussing the crisis in Syria. But I want to begin by paying tribute to Secretary Kerry for his work on the Middle East peace process, which has now led to the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a reminder, amidst all the difficulties of the whole Middle Eastern region, of the progress that effective diplomacy can offer. And I will meet President Abbas here in London later today.

The UK will do all it can to provide support to this process. And I will remain in close touch, as we always do, with Secretary Kerry on this in the coming weeks. Achieving a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very, very high priority in foreign affairs, and John Kerry has placed it there and given enormous energy to this in the last few months.

Note that Geneva 2 is the working name for the next round of talks aimed at generating a conclusion to the Syrian rebellion - it has been repeatedly delayed due to developments in the crisis and different parties walking away from the talks.

 We’ve discussed all aspects of the crisis in Syria. The position of the United Kingdom, following our parliamentary vote 10 days ago is well known, and the government – as you know, in the government, we fully respect the decision made by the House of Commons. But our objectives and efforts between the UK and the U.S. remain closely aligned in four areas in particular: first, working to create the conditions for a Geneva 2 peace process that can lead to a transitional government in Syria; secondly, addressing the desperate humanitarian situation; third, supporting the moderate Syrian opposition and saving lives on the ground; and fourth, mustering a strong international response to the use of chemical weapons.

Our government supports the objective of ensuring there can be no impunity for the first use of chemical warfare in the 21st century. As an international community, we must deter further attacks and hold those responsible for them accountable. We admire the leadership of President Obama and of Secretary Kerry, himself, in making his case so powerfully to the world. This week the European Union, the Arab League, and many of the countries of the G-20 have called for a strong international response. And it is to the credit of the United States that, once again, they are prepared to lead such efforts. They have the full diplomatic support of the United Kingdom. And I welcome the fact that an increasing number of countries have signed up to the joint statement on Syria adopted last week during the G-20 by 11 countries during the G-20, and I urge other countries to do the same.

Secretary Kerry and I share the same revulsion at the utter callousness of a regime that has presided over the deaths of more than 100,000 people and caused more than 2 million to become refugees, among them a million children. The Prime Minister announced an additional 52 million pounds in humanitarian assistance last week, bringing our total to 400 million pounds. The United Kingdom will be working intensively over the coming weeks, including at the UN, to try to secure unfettered access for aid inside Syria, and to address the aid shortfall, working closely with the United States, which is working, leading by example here, as in many other areas.

I briefed Secretary Kerry on the talks we held last week with the presidents and senior leadership of the Syrian National Coalition. There can’t be a political solution in Syria if the Assad regime is allowed to eradicate the moderate opposition. So we discussed ways in which we will continue to coordinate our assistance to them, and we reaffirmed our commitment to a Geneva 2 peace conference, which should create a transitional government leading to elections in Syria, and to continuing our diplomacy with Russia to try to bring about the necessary breakthrough.

At its heart, the U.S.-UK special relationship is an alliance of values, values of freedom, of maintaining international peace and security, of making sure that we live in a rules-based world. So the United Kingdom will continue to work closely with the United States, taking a highly active role in addressing the Syria crisis, and working with our closest ally over the coming weeks and months.

And, as well as addressing all these immediate challenges and crises, we continue to work together on a whole range of issues, from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to Somalia, to my work on preventing sexual violence in conflict, which the Secretary has strongly supported, and, of course, deepening the economic ties that are indispensable to both nations.

So, John, you’re welcome, as always, in London here. And, please, will you say a few words, as well?

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, William. I’d be delighted to. And I begin by saying thank you to you for another generous welcome here in London. I’m very grateful to you and the government for all of your efforts. And I’m very pleased to be concluding this morning, before I go back to brief Congress this afternoon on the subject of Syria, to be concluding here in London a very productive and fairly quick trip to Europe over the last couple of days. Particularly grateful to you, William, always, for your great hospitality and your personal friendship. And I thank you for that.

The relationship – well, let me just say also last night I had dinner and a long meeting with President Abbas, whom the Secretary will be meeting with shortly. And it was a very productive and informative session as part of our ongoing efforts in the Middle East peace process. The negotiators are negotiating. We have said we’re not going to discuss the substance on an ongoing basis, and we’re not. But I am encouraged that even though there have been difficulties along the way on both sides in their countries – in their territory and in the country – nevertheless, they are staying at it, and they are not allowing what historically have been disruptions that might have interrupted them from doing so at this time. That encourages me, in terms of the determination and purpose. And so we will continue this process thoughtfully and, hopefully, quietly over the course of the next weeks and months.

The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom has often been described as special, essential. And it has been described thusly, quite simply, because it is. It was before a vote the other day in parliament, and it will be for long afterwards after that vote. Our bond, as William has just said, is bigger than one vote; it’s bigger than one moment in history. It’s about values. It’s about rules of the road, rules by which human beings try to organize their societies and offer people maximum freedom and opportunity, respecting rights, and finding a balance in a very complicated world. And we have no better partner in that effort than Great Britain, and we are grateful for that.

Our bond really is a paradigm for international cooperation. And our work together on global issues to ensure peace, to ensure stability, to create economic prosperity, to help others to share in the values that we share, to engage in humanitarian initiatives around the world, and sometimes to stand together against the oppressive steps that tyrants take, all of those things are what tie us together, not just for our two nations, but for the entire world.

So just a few minutes ago, the Foreign Secretary and I spoke about the importance of our continued cooperation on a full range of issues, from climate change, to the pursuit of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, to our counterterrorism efforts, to our efforts to promote democracy on a global basis, and, of course, to our efforts to bring about an end to the civil war in Syria.

As I drove in here this morning, there were a group of people assembled outside the building, as is their right, and as people should assemble. And some of them – I heard them saying, “Keep your hands off Syria.” I certainly appreciate the feelings in our country, too, about people who have strong feelings about war and strong feelings about not going into yet some other engagement in another part of the world.

But I think it would be good to hear people saying to a dictator, “Keep your hands off chemical weapons that kill your own people. Protect your own people.” I think it’s important for us to stand up as nations for civility and against actions that challenge notions of humanity and decency and appropriate international behavior. And for almost 100 years, the world has stood together against the use of chemical weapons, and we need to hear an appropriate outcry as we think back on those moments of history when large numbers of people have been killed because the world was silent. The Holocaust, Rwanda, other moments are lessons to all of us today.

So let me be clear. The United States of America, President Obama, myself, others are in full agreement that the end of the conflict in Syria requires a political solution. There is no military solution. And we have no illusions about that. But a resolution to this has to come about because the parties are prepared to come and negotiate that political solution. And if one party believes that it can rub out countless numbers of his own citizens with impunity using chemicals that have been banned for nearly 100 years because of what Europe learned in World War I, if he can do that with impunity, he will never come to a negotiating table. A resolution will not be found on the battlefield, but at that negotiating table. But we have to get to that table.

And we’re in full agreement with our British friends that the humanitarian situation is obviously dire and growing worse: 5 million people displaced within Syria itself; numbers of refugees fleeing from that gas into Lebanon, into Jordan, providing an incredible burden to each of those countries and others in the region. This is a humanitarian catastrophe of global proportions. And the world needs to focus on it, pay attention to it, or we give license to other dictators or other groups in other parts of the world to engage in similar behavior, and just make things worse for everybody.

The United States is proud to say we’ve been the largest humanitarian donor. We recognize that responsibility. And we are also proud to say that we stand with our friends here in Great Britain, who are the second-largest donor. So, we don’t come to this with a sense that all we care about is some kind of a military response. We come to this with years now of effort – literally years of effort – to try to bring the parties to the table and create some kind of political solution, because that remains our top priority. I – our respective leaders made it clear in St. Petersburg that we believe a strong international response is necessary to ensure that atrocities like the one that Assad committed against hundreds of his own people are not going to happen again.

And our special relationship with the UK is not just about Syria, it’s not just about a response to this humanitarian crisis. It’s also about the future, in many ways, on climate change, and particularly on economic prosperity for all of our people. We’re not only – we are both committed to trying to move forward on a trade relationship to grow jobs for our people. And we are not only each other’s largest investors in each of our countries, one to the other, but the fact is that every day almost one million people go to work in America for British companies that are in the United States, just as more than one million people go to work here in Great Britain for American companies that are here. So we are enormously tied together, obviously. And we are committed to making both the U.S.-UK and the U.S.-EU relationships even stronger drivers of our prosperity.

Now, last month the United States held the first round of the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. And this is something where we will continue to work closely together, because we both believe that working with the UK and the rest of the EU to finalize an agreement is going to create new investments to add to those millions of people in both countries I just talked about. It’ll create new jobs and it will create growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

So, as Margaret Thatcher put it pretty bluntly, as she did, the UK and the U.S. are real and true friends. And our relationship, which is grounded in those values and traditions that we both referred to, remains as relevant today as it has been in the past. And we look forward to continuing to strengthen this relationship, and working hard to make real progress on the very many challenges that we face in an increasingly complicated and, in too many places, dangerous world. Thank you, William.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much indeed, John. Now we’re going to have a couple of questions from each side of the Atlantic. Carl, you’ll pick them out.

QUESTION: James Robbins from BBC News. Mr. Secretary, how seriously do you take the new threats from President Assad of retaliation, including by his allies, if the U.S. does strike? That risks, doesn’t it, dragging the United States further into the conflict?

And if Britain had said yes rather than no to strikes, the President would have ordered them by now, wouldn’t he? You’ve now adopted a different tactic, building a different sort of coalition using powerful moral arguments for action against inaction. The logic of that, surely, is that whatever the votes in Congress, the President will go ahead with strikes. The votes can’t change his moral position.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not surprised to find here a well-put question that basically tries to get me to answer something that the President hasn’t decided. So I just have to tell you that the President made a decision based on his gut and his best sense of what was best for the United States of America and our Congress and our democracy. And he knew it would be tough. He didn’t – there was no misinterpretation of the vote here. I think that’s why the President made a very courageous decision to go to the Congress, notwithstanding what happened here, recognizing that in our democracy it was important to ask for the Congress to also invest in this effort.

And I can’t tell you that if the vote had been different the President would have made a different decision at all. I think he was thinking about the best way to proceed, and he made his decision about the best way to proceed. I’m confident the Congress is going to listen very, very carefully. It is listening carefully. Members are doing their homework, their diligence here. There’ve been a lot of briefings in the course of the last week. We will have a full House briefing later today that I will take part in, a full Senate briefing tomorrow. I believe the President will then talk to the American people.

But what I think is important here – I met with a friend of mine, who is a member of the British parliament, who was telling me that even here, still, there are some people who question the evidence, who aren’t sure that, in the post-Iraq moment, we’re not going to be confronting a pre-Iraq presentation. And there’s a lot of fear of that. I understand that fear. I was in the Congress when we voted on Iraq. And I know the deficits of the intelligence back then. And that’s why we took our time very, very carefully. Secretary Chuck Hagel was Senator Hagel, as I was Senator Kerry. And both of us are determined now, as appointed officials of the Obama Administration, to do our utter best not to have history suggest that we were less than thorough with respect to this intelligence.

So we took more time. The President instructed that he wanted this story told as fully as was possible without compromising intelligence sources and methods. The intelligence community was instructed to release more information than we ever have previously in this kind of a situation. And so we declassified things that normally would not be declassified. And there’s a risk in that. But the risk of not having people understand the full measure of the evidence, I think, the President decided was greater.

For me, this has the potential to be very compelling, save for the fact that this information is not being independently confirmed - evidence transparency is a huge part of the reason the following arguments are not being accepted - Iraq created a fool-me-once attitude and the costs are being reaped here.

So what have we put out to people? What do we know about this? Notwithstanding President Assad’s interview, which has not yet been made fully public, we know that his regime gave orders to prepare for a chemical attack. We know that they deployed forces and put them in the places where this took place. We know, by tracing it physically, where the rockets came from, and where they landed. And it is no accident that they all came from regime-controlled territory, and all landed in opposition-controlled or contested territory. We know this. We know that within moments of them landing in that territory, the social media exploded with videos that we also know could not be contrived. And we’ve done various means of ascertaining that through technology check-up. So we know that those are real, and we see people dying, children, young kids not old enough to even speak, heaving for breath, spasming, struggling. And we see all of that within instants of this happening in the very area that we traced that the rockets landed.

Then we hear and know the regime is issuing more instructions to stop the attack, and we know they issue instructions to their people that they’re worried about the UN inspectors finding out what was going on. And then they shell the area that was attacked for four days with four times – the – I can’t remember the exact number of shells that had occurred in the previous 10 days. And we also know, through confirmation through other technical means with other countries, acknowledgement this happened. Syria and Iran have admitted there was a chemical attack. They just try to blame it on people who have no scientific capacity to do this, and where there is no evidence that they have any of the weaponry to be able to do it. And, most importantly, just as a matter of logic, tell me how they would do it from the center of the regime-controlled area and put it into their own people. It defies logic. It defies common sense here.

So, the evidence is powerful. And the question for all of us is: What are we going to do about it? Turn our backs? Have a moment of silence, where a dictator can, with impunity, threaten the rest of the world that he’s going to retaliate for his own criminal activity because he’s being held accountable? We live in a dangerous world, as it is, folks. And that kind of threat is nothing different from the threat we face every single day. And if we don’t stand up to it, we’ll face it more, and they will think they can intimidate anybody. I don’t believe that we should shy from this moment. The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting. And everybody needs to stop and think about that hard.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And let me just add to that before the next question, and I think Secretary Kerry makes – I think the logic of what he says about the evidence is very, very compelling. But on the BBC’s question also about the latest remarks of President Assad, we mustn’t fall into the trap of attaching too much credibility to the words of a leader, President Assad, who has presided over so many war crimes and crimes against humanity, has shown such a murderous disregard for the welfare of his own people, often denied events that have happened, refused in the past to admit the existence of chemical weapons now acknowledged. So let’s not fall into the trap of believing every word that comes out of the mouth of such a man.

Next question?

MODERATOR: Margaret Brennan from CBS.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, in that CBS interview that you just referenced, Bashar al-Assad said that the presentation that you’ve made reminds him, quote, his words, “of the big lie that Colin Powell said in front of the world about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” He says you personally have presented no evidence of a chemical weapons attack, just your confidence and your convictions. And he disputes the argument you just laid out, his argument saying his government relies on reality, not social media, and says Russian intelligence contradicts this false evidence. What is your response?

And secondly, is there anything at this point that his government could do or offer that would stop an attack?

SECRETARY KERRY: Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.

The now famous, or infamous, "off the cuff" remark - which of course either (1) was planted as a result of early-stage Russo-American discussions, (2) was truly off-the-cuff, giving Russia the opportunity to make room for the Syrian regime to avoid intervention that might have toppled the regime, or (3) was something being discussed that, rather than being planted, was accidently bounced before the US had the opportunity to spin it more effecitvely. 

But with respect to the credibility issue, look, I just answered that. I just gave you real evidence, evidence that, as a former prosecutor in the United States, I could tell you I can take into a courtroom and get admitted. And I believe this man – I mean, I’ve personally tried people who have gone away for long prison sentences or for life for less evidence than we have of this. So I’m confident about the state of the evidence.

You can go to whitehouse.gov, read the unclassified report, and make your own judgments. What does he offer? Words that are contradicted by facts. And he doesn’t have a very strong record with respect to this question of credibility, because I personally visited him once at the instruction of the White House to confront him on his transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah, which we knew had taken place and had all kinds of facts, and he sat there and simply denied it to my face, notwithstanding the evidence I presented and what we showed him.

So this is a man who has just killed, through his regime, over 1,000 of his own citizens. Over 100,000, or about 100,000, have been murdered over the course of the last months. He sent Scud missiles into schools. He sends airplanes to napalm children. Everybody has seen that. This is a man without credibility. And so I will happily stand anywhere in the world with the evidence that we have against his words and his deception and his acts.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Okay. Third question?

MODERATOR: (Off mike.)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, despite all of that evidence and all of the rhetoric you’ve deployed, the American voters, the British voters, and the French voters all opposed to military action in Syria. Why do you think that is? And what makes you think that you know better?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I would never claim personally to, quote, “know better.” There’s a certain arrogance in that that I learned long ago in American elected life is not – doesn’t serve you very well. But I would say that a lot of folks have a visceral reaction to public people presenting evidence post-Iraq, where they have serious doubts without sort of seeing all of the evidence, and not everybody has or does.

Yes.  Everyone is literally saying that.  Though when I say it, I keep thinking of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, not our own.  Still, nothing to smile about.

And also, there’s just an instant reaction by a lot of people to say, “Whoa, here we go again. This is going to be Iraq, this is going to be Afghanistan.” And I understand that. I am very sympathetic to that feeling. If I weren’t in the Administration and I didn’t have access to what I have, I’m sure I would have the exact same reaction. I’d probably be very questioning of public people. That’s why I’m standing up here today. That’s why I went to the European community. That’s why I will be briefing Congress, together with other members of the Administration. That’s why the President will talk to the American people. Because our responsibility is to share what we know, and to lead, and to try to bring people to a point where they can agree with us, hopefully.

Now, I believe that the aftermath of the Iraq experience and Afghanistan leave a lot of people saying, "We don’t want to see our young people coming back in a body bag," and so forth. But that’s not what we’re talking about. And what we have to do is make clear to people that this is – we’re not talking about war. We’re not going to war. We will not have people at risk in that way. We will be able to hold Bashar Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we’re talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.

Now, that has been engaged in previously on many different occasions. President Reagan had a – several hours or whatever effort to send a message to Qadhafi in the wake, I think, of Pan Am 103 and other terrorist activities. Other times people have engaged in making it clear that you’ve got to draw a line, and that there are consequences for actions when people step over those lines. If you don’t draw those lines, and the civilized world is not prepared to enforce those lines, you are giving complete license to people to do whatever they want and to feel that they can do so with impunity. If you want to send Iran and Hezbollah and Assad a congratulatory message, you guys can do what you want. You’d say – don’t do anything. We believe that’s dangerous. And we will face this down the road in some more significant way if we’re not prepared to take some kind of a stand now.

So that’s our argument. It’s not that I know better or someone knows better. It’s an argument that we believe is based on fact, on evidence, on history. And we ask people to take a close look at it and make their own judgments.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: One more question from the American media.

MODERATOR: Michael Gordon from The New York Times.

QUESTION: Yes, a question for Mr. Hague, the Foreign Secretary: Sir, now that the British parliament has decided against British participation in a potential military strike in Syria, is there any way in which your government might do more in Syria by, say, arming the opposition or upgrading nonlethal material assistance to the rebels? Or, in deference to public opinion at home and your parliament’s decision, is your government essentially relegated to standing on the sidelines and providing moral support?

And, sir, would you support military action by the Obama Administration, even if the American Congress does not vote for that action?

And then a question for Secretary Kerry: Sir, would the Obama Administration consider releasing still more intelligence, or perhaps some of the physical evidence of sarin use, which you have not yet provided, to counter Mr. Assad’s assertions? And is there any concrete intelligence that links Mr. Assad directly to the attack? Do you have such information or not? And do you think it matters if you don’t have such information? Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: On the first part of that question, you can gather from some of my opening remarks that the UK is heavily engaged in many other ways in trying to address the problems of the – thrown up by the crisis in Syria. The Prime Minister convened the meeting at the G-20 of nations and organizations looking at how we seriously ramp up the humanitarian assistance, renew diplomatic efforts on getting humanitarian access, which has been one of the great problems. This is a regime that actually tries to prevent humanitarian aid getting to its own people; in some cases, removes medical supplies or obstructs medical supplies from getting to the right place.

So, the Prime Minister convened that meeting with the strong support of the United States. We have led the way in the latest round of increased donations to the humanitarian effort with that extra 52 million pounds. So the UK is at the forefront, with the United States and others, of that piece of work. And it will become all the more important in the coming months.

We’re also doing a great deal to assist the stability of neighboring countries, and particularly Lebanon and Jordan, and the direct assistance we give to the Lebanese armed forces and to Jordan, including equipment to help the Jordanian armed forces cope on their border. We are heavily engaged at the United Nations and in all forums in the continuous efforts over recent months to bring about a Geneva 2 peace process.

And with the opposition with the Syrian National Coalition, who I met last week, and who I – who we can regard – who I – we can regard as a democratic, non-sectarian opposition, we do give them a great deal of practical, nonlethal assistance. That has included the delivery in recent days of equipment to protect against chemical attack, escape hoods, injections, detector paper that will help people to survive chemical attacks. We’re looking at doing more of that in the future.

And so, as you can see, the United Kingdom is, in very many ways, trying to bring about a – working with the United States and our other allies – trying to bring about a political solution in Syria and alleviate the suffering of the people there and prevent the spread of the crisis to other countries. So involving all of those ways, while fully respecting the vote in our parliament, on our attitude to a decision of the United States, that is for United States. We have our own constitution and parliamentary complications and rules. We will leave it to the United States to address their issues. These are two – the two great homes, two of the greatest homes of democracy in the world, and they each work in slightly different ways. And that – we each have to respect the way each other’s democracy works. And we do.

John?

SECRETARY KERRY: And we do. That’s for sure. I don’t know – honestly, I just don’t know whether the President will make a decision to release more, whether there is a consensus that more needs to be released. We have released an unprecedented amount of information. And obviously, there is a risk in some of this, because you can conceivably, in certain circumstances, compromise your ability to be able to intercept a plot or track what terrorists are thinking about and planning. And so you have to be very, very careful in those judgments, and that’s exactly what the intelligence community – that’s why it took a while to get to where we are.

But – and this is very, very important – but the elected representatives of the American people, members of Congress, have a right to go to the intelligence committees and to the intelligence community and be briefed. So it’s not being hidden from people. And they can be the judges of that additional intelligence that they see or don’t see, which is how a republic works.

With respect to Assad directly, et cetera, the chemical weapons in Syria we have tracked for some period of time now are controlled in a very tight manner by the Assad regime. And it is Bashar al-Assad and Maher al-Assad, his brother, and a general who are the three people who have control over the movement and use of chemical weapons. But under any circumstances, the Assad regime is the Assad regime. And the regime issues orders. And we have high-level regime that have been caught giving these instructions and engaging in these preparations with results going directly to President Assad. And we’re aware of that.

So we have no issue about the question here of responsibility. There is none. The Assad regime is the Assad regime. They control these weapons. They have a huge stock of these weapons, a very threatening level stock that remains. And that’s why this issue is of such consequence and so important. And there is no issue whatsoever in the mind of the intelligence community or the Administration, or certainly in the minds of all those people like Senator Feinstein, who is the head of the Intelligence Committee and Saxby Chambliss, the ranking member, and others who have come to a conclusion that the regime, in fact, engaged in this activity.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.



Transcript / Statement
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
September 9, 2013


Today we conducted negotiations with the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem in Moscow. After they ended, we received news that the US Secretary of State John Kerry made an announcement, according to which strikes on Syria might be avoided if Damascus made all its chemical weapons accessible to the international community. We do not know whether the Syrian Arab Republic will agree to this, but if international control over chemical weapons in this country allows for the prevention of military strikes, we will immediately start our work with Damascus. We appeal to the Syrian government not only to allow their chemical weapons storage places to fall under international control, but also to their further destruction, as well as to accede to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in full.

We have already transferred our proposition to the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem, who is in Moscow. We expect to get a fast and positive answer.

The Russian Solution - apparently accepted already by the Syrian regime, but is this sincere?  If it is sincerely, is it feasible?  I'm inclined to think it is sincere, but the feasibility depends upon the UN and Russia doing a number of things that have never happened before - that said, if Russian troops with sky blue helmets are surrounding the facilities in a couple weeks AND Russian conventional arms shipments spike in the same period (maybe on the same planes) I would be Jack's complete lack of surprise. 


Transcript / Speech Summarizing Meeting with Syrian
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
September 9, 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The visit to Moscow by the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic, headed by the President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Walid Al-Muallem, was well-timed. Against the backdrop of the promoted campaign preparing for possible forceful action against Damascus, Russia implements active steps to prevent harmful exacerbation of the situation in the Middle East.

More and more responsible politicians and statesmen agree with our claims that the use of force will result in anarchic terrorism both in Syria and in neighbouring countries, with a marked jump in the stream of refugees, which has already happened ever since the United States announced that they intend to make a strike on the Syrian Arab Republic. We are concerned with the fate of this long-suffering region. And we certainly cannot disregard the fate of Russian nationals who live and work in Syria, whose life and health may be jeopardised.

Therefore, we consider it a matter of prime importance to prevent such a scenario, for the purpose of satisfying the agreements of G8 leaders established in June at the summit in Northern Ireland and considering an appeal to the government and the opposition to join their efforts to expel terrorists from this country.

Today, our conversation partners confirmed that Damascus is ready to respond to this appeal in a positive manner. In our work, our actions are based on the absolute need to respect international law and established agreements. The same refers to the need of a thorough investigation into all reports of the use of chemical weapons. I remind you all that G8 leaders agreed that all such reports must be professionally and objectively investigated, but their results must be presented to the UNSC, which will draft proper conclusions.

We consider the announcement of the UN Secretary-General that the expert group which investigated the use of chemical weapons in Syria needs to return to this country and complete its work in accordance with earlier established agreements, to be a rather important and well-timed one.

Considering the seriousness of the current situation, we and our Syrian partners are convinced that there is still a chance of a political settlement. Walid Al-Muallem clearly confirmed the readiness of Syria to attend the international conference Geneva-2 for the purpose of establishing an agreement with the opposition without any preconditions as prescribed by the Geneva Communique of 30 June 2012. We expect opposition representatives to make the same statement, as envisaged by the Russian-American initiative of 7 May. We appeal to our American colleagues to focus their efforts on this rather to prepare military intervention.

We are deeply concerned with the exacerbation of the humanitarian situation in Syria. Russia will continue to help the affected Syrian population through authorised international bodies and directly. However, it is understandable that a humanitarian situation may be finally reached only after a political settlement has been established, with any forceful methods dismissed.

We agreed on practical steps, which we will undertake jointly and in contact with other countries in order to allow for a chance for the implementation of the political settlement.

Question: Did you discuss specific initiatives for beginning negotiations of the situation in Syria your meeting today?

Sergey Lavrov: We discussed the situation in Syria, which is worrying us, as well as the additional actions which may be undertaken to allow for the political process to prevail.

As you know, we still cannot convene Geneva-2. And it is not the fault of the Russian Federation or the Syrian Arab Republic. The National Coalition, which is considered the main opposition structure by Americans and some other countries, does not agree to the Russian-American initiative of 7 May. They cannot or do not wish to convince the coalition to provide such a consent.

A lot of the Russian statements look like this - the inference is clearly a jab at the US, reflecting a different way of doing business, so to speak - the Russians are really saying here that they have control over their proxies and it is time for the United States to get control over their proxies - not an entirely equivalent task, but then again reflecting decades of interaction history.

We do not think that anybody has the right to monopolise the work with any structure. Russia contacted each and all of the opposition structures in the last years. We will continue this work, convincing others that there is no alternative to the international conference. While we understand that this may help for as long as we have these contacts, we do not exclude the possibility of inviting to Moscow everybody who is interested in peace in Syria via a political settlement, with the rejection of military intervention. We need indeed to initiate a dialogue between all Syrians. I am convinced that a political settlement will ultimately remain the final destination of all this movement, without any other alternatives.

We also agreed that the UN experts should return to complete their work on all the use of chemical weapons and reports about their use, as soon as possible. As I have already mentioned, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will have the inspectors return to the Syrian Arab Republic soon. We suspect that others will try to prevent this from happening. We will resolutely try to ensure that the inspectors complete their work. The Syrian Government is not only ready, but also insists on this. In general, we have agreed that the attitude of our Syrian colleagues to everything related to this (when we discussed the topic of chemical weapons) is a most serious one. We will work in all these respects, as well as other ones.

Question: Is there any information concerning (sometimes international) investigation of crimes, executions, and torture committed by Syrian militants?

Sergey Lavrov: In my opinion, we have enough evidence. We have had testimonies of witnesses of the atrocities performed by armed militants, and videos posted by them on the Internet (they seem be proud with their behaviour); while professional assessments performed by e.g. by Carla Del Ponte (member of the independent UN commission for the monitoring and investigation of reported human rights abuses in Syria) indicate that she has information concerning the use of poisonous chemical weapons by militants. Mother Agnes recently gave a big interview, during which she told the world about the events of 21 August and the situation in the Christian regions of Syria. It is a fact that these are directly related to the events of 21 August, which, in our opinion, certainly evidence that this scenario was staged.

Question: What are the prospects for convening Geneva-2 if the United States and their allies decide to make a strike on Syria? It is known that the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad has stated that the Friends of Syria Group have a response to that. That said, several Western and Arab mass media sources yesterday and today spoke of some kind of a deal offered by the United States to Syria through G20. What will be the response of the Friends of Syria Group?

Sergey Lavrov: I certainly would not wish to immediately assume a negative scenario. Primarily we will be making efforts to prevent military intervention. And, as Walid Al-Muallem stated in his introductory speech, if the United States are truly concerned with the problem of non-proliferation and use of chemical weapons, it may be solved. You heard my Syrian colleague. If the strikes are made, then, according to the majority of specialists and those who deal closely with the Syrian problem, the chances for Geneva-2 will be disrupted. In particular, the Special Envoy of UN and LAS to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, expressed such opinion in his talk with journalists after our meeting in St Petersburg.

Here it is, kids - this is the Russian line in the sand - no intervention.  The Russians want al-Asad, they want their ports, in large part because they want their influence preserved at the interstate level - after all their real leverage over non-neighboring polities, as a commentator on BBC mentioned this morning, lay almost exclusively these days in its energy exports and its key role in intergovernmental organizations.

As for our support of the efforts of the Syrian people to preserve their sovereignty, territorial integrity, liberty and independence, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin discussed it in detail during the press conference in St Petersburg.

There can be no deals conducted behind the backs of the Syrian people. Meanwhile, Russia will continue its policy.


Transcript / Secretary Kerry's Opening Remarks
House Armed Services Committee
September 10, 2013


SECRETARY KERRY: Chairman McKeon, Ranking Member Smith, and distinguished members of the committee, I’m privileged to be here this morning with Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey, and we are all of us – all three of us – very much looking forward to a conversation with you about this complicated, challenging, but critical issue that our country faces.

And we don’t come to you lightly. I think Secretary Hagel and I particularly come here with an enormous amount of respect for this process, for what each of you go through at home, and the challenges you face with constituents, and the complexity of this particular issue. So this is good. It’s good that we’re here, and we look forward to the conversation.

And as we convene at this hearing, it is no exaggeration at all to say to you that the world is watching. And they’re watching not just to see what we decide; they’re watching to see how we decide it, and whether or not we have the ability at this critical time when so much is on the line in so many parts of the world. As challenges to governance, writ large, it’s important that we show the world that we actually do have the ability to, hopefully, speak with one voice. And we believe that that can make a difference.

Needless to say, this is one of the most important decisions that any member of Congress makes during the course of their service. And we all want to make sure we leave plenty of time here for discussion. Obviously, this is a very large committee, and so we’ll try to summarize in these comments and give the opportunity for the Q&A.

But I just want to open with a few comments about questions I’m hearing from many of your colleagues, and obviously, from the American people and what we read in the news.

First, people ask me – and they ask you, I know – why we are choosing to have a debate on Syria at a time when there’s so much that we need to be doing here at home. And we all know what that agenda is. Let me assure you, the President of the United States didn’t wake up one day and just kind of flippantly say, “Let’s go take military action in Syria.” He didn’t choose this. We didn’t choose this. We’re here today because Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who has chosen to meet the requests for reform in his country with bullets and bombs and napalm and gas, because he made a decision to use the world’s most heinous weapons to murder more than – in one instance – more than 1,400 innocent people, including more than 400 children. He and his regime made a choice, and President Obama believes – and all of us at this table believe – that we have no choice but to respond.

Now, to those who doubt whether Assad’s actions have to have consequences, remember that our inaction absolutely is guaranteed to bring worse consequences. You, every one of you here – we, all of us – America will face this. If not today, somewhere down the line when the permissiveness of not acting now gives Assad license to go do what he wants – and threaten Israel, threaten Jordan, threaten Lebanon, create greater instability in a region already wracked by instability, where stability is one of the greatest priorities of our foreign policy and of our national security interest.

And that brings me to the second question that I’ve heard lately, which is sort of: What’s really at stake here? Does this really affect us? I met earlier today with Steve Chabot and had a good conversation. I asked him, “What are you hearing?” I know what you’re all hearing. The instant reaction of a lot of Americans anywhere in our country is, “Woah, we don’t want to go to war again. We don’t want to Iraq. We don’t want to go to Afghanistan. We’ve seen how those turned out.” I get it, and I’ll speak to that in a minute.

But I want to make it clear at the outset, as each of us at this table want to make it clear, that what Assad has done directly affects America’s security – America’s security. We have a huge national interest in containing all weapons of mass destruction. And the use of gas is a weapon of mass destruction. Allowing those weapons to be used with impunity would be an enormous chink in our armor that we have built up over years against proliferation. Think about it. Our own troops benefit from that prohibition against chemical weapons.

The American "red-line" - the Americans want to preserve the taboo of weapons of mass destruction - to do this they must see Syria punished effectively, otherwise risk demonstration effect.  The problem of course is that to do this they must undermine another taboo, the use of offensive warfare without UN Security Council approval, which of course undermines Russian and Chinese confidence in the organ, encouraging them to pursue policies which might undermine, again, the taboo of weapons of mass destruction.  Lose/lose. . . meaning the US must attempt to achieve the least-worst outcome.

I mentioned yesterday in the briefing – many of you were there, and some of you I notice from decorations, otherwise I know many of you have served in the military, some of you still in the reserves. And you know the training we used to go through when you’re learning. And I went to Chemical, Nuclear, Biological Warfare school, and I remember going into a room and a gas mask, and they make you take it off, and you see how long you can do it. It ain’t for long.

Those weapons have been outlawed, and our troops, in all of the wars we fought since World War I, have never been subjected to it because we stand up for that prohibition. There’s a reason for that. If we don’t answer Assad today, we will irreparably damage a century-old standard that has protected American troops in war. So to every one of your constituents, if they were to say to you, “Why did you vote for this even though we said we don’t want to go to war?” Because you want to protect American troops, because you want to protect America’s prohibition and the world’s prohibition against these weapons.

The stability of this region is also in our direct security interest. Our allies, our friends in Israel, Jordan, and Turkey, are, all of them, just a strong wind away from being injured themselves or potentially from a purposeful attack. Failure to act now will make this already volatile neighborhood even more combustible, and it will almost certainly pave the way for a more serious challenge in the future. And you can just ask our friends in Israel or elsewhere. In Israel, they can’t get enough gas masks. And there’s a reason that the Prime Minister has said this matters, this decision matters. It’s called Iran. Iran looms out there with its potential – with its nuclear program and the challenge we have been facing. And that moment is coming closer in terms of a decision. They’re watching what we do here. They’re watching what you do and whether or not this means something.

If we choose not to act, we will be sending a message to Iran of American ambivalence, American weakness. It will raise the question – I’ve heard this question. As Secretary of State as I meet with people and they ask us about sort of our long-term interests and the future with respect to Iran, they’ve asked me many times, “Do you really mean what you say? Are you really going to do something?” They ask whether or not the United States is committed, and they ask us also if the President cuts a deal will the Congress back it up? Can he deliver? This is all integrated. I have no doubt – I’ve talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday – Israel does not want to be in the middle of this. But we know that their security is at risk and the region is at risk.

The Syria Accountability Act (in full above) Kerry opines upon here is the working instrument of American domestic law.  And he is right - it calls Syria everything but a sweetheart.  But it also falls short of statments about the use of force, which of course is a matter of some significance.

I also want to remind you, you have already spoken to this. Your word is on the line, too. You passed the Syria Accountability Act. And that act clearly states that Syria’s chemical weapons threaten the security of the Middle East. That’s in plain writing. It’s in the act. You voted for it. We’ve already decided these chemical weapons are important to the security of our nation. I quote, “The national security interests of the United States are – the national security interests of the United States are at risk with the weapons of mass – the chemical weapons of Syria.”

The fourth question I’ve been asked a lot of times is why diplomacy isn’t changing this dynamic. Isn’t there some alternative that could avoid this? And I want to emphasize on behalf of President Obama, President Obama’s first priority throughout this process has been and is diplomacy. Diplomacy is our first resort, and we have brought this issue to the United Nations Security Council on many occasions. We have sent direct messages to Syria, and we’ve had Syria’s allies bring them direct messages: Don’t do this. Don’t use these weapons. All to date, to no avail.

In the last three years, Russia and China have vetoed three Security Council resolutions condemning the regime for inciting violence or resolutions that simply promote a political solution to the dialogue – to the conflict. Russia has even blocked press releases – press releases that do nothing more than express humanitarian concern for what is happening in Syria, or merely condemn the generic use of chemical weapons, not even assigning blame. They have blocked them. We’ve brought these concerns to the United Nations, making the case to the members of the Security Council that protecting civilians, prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, and promoting peace and security are in our shared interests, and those general statements have been blocked.

That is why the President directed me to work with the Russians and the region’s players to get a Geneva 2 peace negotiation underway. And the end to the conflict in Syria, we all emphasize today – is a political solution. None of us are coming to you today asking for a long-term military – I mean, some people think we ought to be, but we don’t believe there is any military solution to what is happening in Syria. But make no mistake: No political solution will ever be achievable as long as Assad believes he can just gas his way out of this predicament. And we are without question building a coalition of support for this now. Thirty-one countries have signed on to the G-20 statement, which is a powerful one, endorsing the United States’ efforts to hold Assad accountable for what he is doing. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and many others are committed to joining with us in any action. We’re now in the double digits with respect to countries that are prepared to actually take action should they be needed were they capable of it. More than 25 – I mentioned 31 nations signing on to the G-12 statement.

But our diplomatic hand, my former colleagues, our diplomatic hand only becomes stronger if other countries know that America is speaking with a strong voice here, with one voice, and if we’re stronger as a united nation around this purpose. In order to speak with that voice, we need you, the Congress. That’s what the President did. Many of you said please bring this to Congress. The President has done that, and he’s bringing it to Congress with confidence that the Congress will want to join in an effort in order to uphold the word of the United States of America – not just a president, but the United States of America – with respect to these weapons of mass destruction.

Now, I want to be crystal clear about something else. Some people want to do more in Syria; some people are leery about doing anything at all. But one goal we ought to all be able to agree on is that chemical weapons cannot be under the control of a man so craven that he has repeatedly used those chemical weapons against his fellow Syrians with the horrific results that all of us have been able to see.

Yesterday, we challenged the regime to turn them over to the secure control of the international community so that they could be destroyed. And that, of course, would be the ultimate way to degrade and deter Assad’s arsenal, and it is the ideal weapon – ideal way to take this weapon away from him.

Assad’s chief benefactor, the Russians, have responded by saying that they would come up with a proposal to do exactly that. And we have made it clear to them – I have in several conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov – that this cannot be a process of delay, this cannot be a process of avoidance. It has to be real, has to be measurable, tangible. And it is exceedingly difficult – I want everybody here to know – to fulfill those conditions. But we’re waiting for that proposal, but we’re not waiting for long.

President Obama will take a hard look at it. But it has to be swift, it has to be real, it has to be verifiable. It cannot be a delaying tactic. And if the United Nations Security Council seeks to be the vehicle to make it happen, that cannot be allowed to simply become a debating society. There are many countries – and many of you in the Congress, from those who wanted military action to those who were skeptical of military action – want to see if this idea could become reality.

But make no mistake – make no mistake – about why this idea has any potential legs at all and why it is that the Russians have reached out to the Syrians and why the Syrians have initially suggested they might be interested. A lot of people say that nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging. Well, it’s the credible threat of force that has been on the table for these last weeks that has, for the first time, brought this regime to even acknowledge that they have a chemical weapons arsenal. And it is the threat of this force and our determination to hold Assad accountable that has motivated others to even talk about a real and credible international action that might have an impact.

So how do you maintain that pressure? We have to continue to show Syria, Russia, and the world that we are not going to fall for stalling tactics. If the challenge we laid down is going to have the potential to become a real proposal, it is only because of the threat of force that we are discussing today. And that threat is more compelling if Congress stands with the Commander-in-Chief.

Finally, let me just correct a common misconception. In my conversation with Steve Chabot earlier today, he mentioned this. I’ve heard it. I’ve talked with many of you. You’ve told you me you hear it. The instant reaction of a lot of Americans – and I am completely sympathetic to it, I understand it, I know where it comes from, I only stopped sitting where you sit a few months ago – I know exactly what the feelings are. People don’t want another Iraq. None of us do. We don’t want Afghanistan.

But Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, we can’t make this decision based solely on the budget. We can’t make this decision based solely on our wishes, on our feeling that we know we’ve been through the ringer for a while. We’re the United States of America, and people look to us. They look to us for the meaning of our word, and they look to us for our values in fact being followed up by the imprint of action where that is necessary.

We are not talking about America going to war. President Obama is not asking for a declaration of war. We are not going to war. There will be no American boots on the ground. Let me repeat: No American boots will be on the ground.

What we’re talking about is a targeted, limited, but consequential action that will reinforce the prohibition against chemical weapons. And General Dempsey and Secretary Hagel will tell you how we can achieve that and their confidence in our ability to achieve that. We’re talking about an action that will degrade Assad’s capacity to use these weapons and to ensure that they do not proliferate. And with this authorization, the President is asking for the power to make sure that the United States of America means what we say.

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, and members of this committee, I can say to you with absolute confidence, the risk of not acting is much greater than the risk of acting. If we fail to act, Assad will believe that he has license to gas his own people again. And that license will turn prohibited weapons into tactical weapons. And General Dempsey can tell you about this. It would make – it would take an exception, a purposeful exception that has been in force since 1925, and make it the rule today. It would undermine our standing, degrade America’s security and our credibility, and erode our strength in the world.

In a world of terrorists and extremists, we would choose to ignore those risks at our peril. We cannot afford to have chemical weapons transformed into the new convenient weapon, the IED, the car bomb, the weapon of everyday use in this world. Neither our country nor our conscience can bear the costs of inaction, and that’s why we’ve come before you, at the instruction of the President, to ask you to join us in this effort.


Transcript / Introductory Statement at Press Conference
French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius
September 10, 2013


Since the Damascus chemical massacre on 21 August, we’ve constantly pursued two objectives: punishment of those responsible and deterrence, so that they can’t do it again. Our considered, firm approach has allowed us to get support from a growing number of states and influence certain positions. Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Minister took a step in this direction, calling for – I quote – “the Syrian authorities not only to agree to put their chemical weapons stockpile under international control and then have it destroyed, but also to become a full member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons”.

This is it - the chance to put international observers on the ground and bring Syria into the chemical weapons interstate regime.  The fact that it has support by the People's Republic of China is no small thing either - that puts even further pressure on Russia to make sure Syria abides.  Still, this does only (maybe) deal with that one issue of the Syrian crisis.

This position has today been supported, among others, by China.

We welcome this new position with interest, but also with caution. We don’t want it to be used as a diversionary tactic. This is why, after discussing it with the President, we have decided to take the initiative.

So France will present a resolution to this effect to the United Nations Security Council, and the procedure will be begun this very day. The text will be examined and, if need be, amended by our partners and by the Security Council.

Very specifically, France will today propose to its Security Council partners a draft resolution under Chapter VII aimed at making its ideas an immediate reality. What ideas?

Firstly, condemning the 21 August massacre committed by the Syrian regime;

Secondly, demanding that the regime immediately shed full light on its chemical weapons programme, place it under international control and allow it to be dismantled;

Thirdly, putting in place a full mechanism for the inspection and monitoring of its obligations, under the aegis of the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons;

Fourthly, providing for extremely serious consequences in the event of Syria violating its obligations;
  

Fifthly, finally, punishing the perpetrators of the 21 August chemical massacre in the international criminal justice system.

Right off the bat assume any resolution that might pass the Security Council without a veto will lack both the first and of these elements - the fourth will only have a chance of passing into resolution if it remains extremely ambiguous.

It’s on the acceptance of these specific conditions that we’ll judge the credibility of the intentions expressed yesterday. The Syrian people have suffered too much; we won’t let ourselves be dragged into delaying tactics, so we must have rapid results. France wants to act in good faith to ensure that a firm, specific and verifiable response to the Syrian chemical threat can finally be found, with the two objectives we’ve had from the outset – punishment and deterrence – and still the same method: well-considered firmness.



Transcript / National Address
President Obama's Address on Syria
September 10, 2013


My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria, why it matters and where we go from here. Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war.

Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America's worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement, but I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad's government gassed to death over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening: men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk.

On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits, a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws of war.

This was not always the case. In World War I, American G.I.s were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe. In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them. And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.

Ah, but that is the question - the fact that they were used is secondary to who used them.

On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity. No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack, and humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.

Again - no transparency - we're being asked to take it on the administration's word. 

Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded.

We know senior figures in Assad's military machine reviewed the results of the attack and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We've also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory, but these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.
The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people - to those children - is not only a violation of international law, it's also a danger to our security. Let me explain why.

If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons and to use them to attack civilians.

Hugely important - this is a matter of deterrence not only in the present moment but in future moments. 

If fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad's ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.

This is not a world we should accept. This is what's at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.

That's my judgment as commander-in-chief, but I'm also the president of the world's oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress, and I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together. This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people's representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

One of the paragraphs that clearly annoyed Mr. Putin.

Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action - no matter how limited - is not going to be popular. After all, I've spent four-and-a-half years working to end wars, not to start them.

Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington –especially me - to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home, putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class. It's no wonder then that you're asking hard questions.

So let me answer some of the most important questions that I've heard from members of Congress and that I've read in letters that you've sent to me. First, many of you have asked, won't this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are still recovering from our involvement in Iraq. A veteran put it more bluntly: This nation is sick and tired of war.

My answer is simple. I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective, deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad's capabilities.

Others have asked whether it's worth acting if we don't take out Assad. Now, some members of Congress have said there's no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria.

Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.

I don't think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can makes Assad - or any other dictator - think twice before using chemical weapons.

Other questions involve the dangers of retaliation. We don't dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military. Any other - any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day. Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise, and our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakable support of the United States of America.

Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that's so complicated and where, as one person wrote to me, those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights?

It's true that some of Assad's opponents are extremists. But al Qaida will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death.

The majority of the Syrian people, and the Syrian opposition we work with, just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.

Finally, many of you have asked, why not leave this to other countries or seek solutions short of force? As several people wrote to me, we should not be the world's policemen.

I agree. And I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warnings and negotiations, but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.

However, over the last few days, we've seen some encouraging signs, in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitting that it has these weapons and even said they'd join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.

For me this is the biggest win of the speech - we knew the window was broken, and Asad may not be admitting to breaking it, but he has admitted he owns a bat and ball and that he should probably only play baseball at the park from now on.  Something - not everything, but something.

It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments, but this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad's strongest allies.

Face-saving - avoid an unnecessary partisan act that could undermine American negotiating power and make the next few months major debates even more unpleasant.

I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I'm sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin.

I've spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies – France and the United Kingdom - and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control.

We'll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st, and we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas, from Asia to the Middle East, who agree on the need for action.

Meanwhile, I've ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight I give thanks, again, to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices.

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements; it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world's a better place because we have borne them.

And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America's military might with the failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.

To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor, for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

Indeed, I'd ask every member of Congress and those of you watching at home tonight to view those videos of the attack, and then ask, what kind of world will we live in if the United States of

America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?

Franklin Roosevelt once said, "Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideas and principles that we have cherished are challenged."

Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.

America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong, but when with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

The American exceptionalism remark that clearly upset Mr. Putin. 

That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.


Text of the French Resolution  Proposed to the 
Security Council on Syrian Chemical Weapons
September 11, 2013

Source: Reuters

PP1.Expressing its horror at the use of chemical weapons on 21 August 2013 in Rif Damascus and the large scale fatalities that resulted from it,

PP2.Expressing profound concern at the risk of further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities, considering the significant stockpiles of chemical weapons detained by the Syrian authorities,

PP3.Affirming that the use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious violation of international law,

PP4.Affirming that the use of chemical weapons on this scale marks the gravest escalation in the disproportionate, indiscriminate and systematic use of weapons by the Syrian authorities against its own people, and can constitute a war crime and a crime against humanity,

PP5.Recalling that Syria is party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol which prohibits the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gas, and of bacteriological methods of warfare,

PP6.Stressing that those responsible for attacks on civilians, and any attacks using chemical weapons, including attacks by forces under their control, must be held accountable,

PP7.Recalling resolution 1540 (1984) which affirms that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

PP8.Determining that the situation in Syria constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

1. Condemns the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities on 21 August 2013 against the civilian population of Rif Damascus in violation of its obligations under international law;

2. Demands that these authorities strictly and urgently observe their obligations under international law with respect to chemical and biological weapons, in particular resolution 1540 (2004) and the 1925 Geneva Protocol

3. Demands the immediate cessation of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities;

4. Demands that the Syrian authorities fully comply with the Mission mandated by UNSG to investigate a number of allegations of use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, and ensure the security of the Mission,

5. Demands Syria to reaffirm unconditionally its obligation under the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of bacteriological methods of warfare, signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925, and to access the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and to ratify the Convention of the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and toxin weapons and their destruction;

6. Decides that the Syrian authorities shall unconditionally destruct, remove or render harmless, under international supervision and take all necessary measures and appropriate means in that regard : (a) all chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities and (b) all means capable of delivering chemical weapons and related major parts, and repair and production facilities;

7. Demands that the Syrian authorities submit to the Secretary-General, within fifteen days of the adoption of the present resolution, an exhaustive, complete and definitive declaration of the locations, amount and types of all items related to its chemical warfare program specified in paragraph 6;

8. Decides that the Mission to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, in close coordination with the Organisation for the prohibition of Chemical Weapons, will carry out immediate on-site inspections of Syria's chemical, biological and related vehicles, based on Syria's declaration and the designation of any additional locations by the Mission itself;

9. Decides that Syria shall allow immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all areas, facilities, equipment, records and means of transport which the Mission wishes to inspect in accordance with the mandate given by the present resolution, as well as to all officials and other persons linked to the Syrian chemical and biological weapons program including their means of delivery, and stresses the importance of ensuring that the Mission have all necessary resources and authority for the fulfillment of its work in Syria;

10. Demands the Syrian authorities to take all necessary steps and appropriate measures to ensure the proper custody of all chemical weapons, precursors and agents, and vehicles as mentioned in paragraph 6 pending their destruction, removal or rendering harmless, and to prevent their proliferation and dissemination;

11. Requests the Head of the Mission, in close coordination with the Director General of the OPCW to communicate to the Security Council, within [10 days] after the submission by the Syrian authorities referred to in OP6, his first report on the application of the mandate given by the present resolution including the cooperation extended by the Syrian authorities, and to provide additional reports on a monthly basis;

12. Decides that direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to and from the Syrian Arab Republic, of chemical or biological weapons and related precursors, agent and materiel of all types, including technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance shall immediately be prohibited, and, in this context;

12. Calls upon all Member States to inspect, in accordance with their national authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements, all cargo to and from Syria, in their territory, including seaports and airports, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer, or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 5 of this resolution;

13. Decides to establish, in accordance with rule 28 of its provisional rules of procedure, a Committee of the Security Council consisting of all the members of the Council, to undertake the following tasks: (a) to seek from all States, in particular those in the region and those producing the items, materials, equipment, goods and technology referred to in paragraph 5, and from the secretariat of the OPCW information regarding the actions taken by them to implement effectively the measures imposed by this resolution and whatever further information it may consider useful in this regard; (b) to examine and take appropriate action following information regarding alleged violations of measures imposed this resolution; (c) to consider and decide upon requests for exemptions; (d) to determine as may be necessary additional items, materials, equipment, goods and technology to be specified for the purpose of paragraph 5 above; (e) to designate as may be necessary individuals and entities subject to the measures imposed by paragraph 12 above; (f) to promulgate guidelines as may be necessary to facilitate the implementation of the measures imposed by this resolution and include in such guidelines a requirement on States to provide information where possible as to why any individuals and/or entities meet the criteria set out in paragraph 12 and any relevant identifying information; (g) to report at least every 90 days to the Security Council on its work and on the implementation of this resolution, with its observations and recommendations, in particular on ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the measures imposed by this resolution;

14. Decides to establish immediate travel ban and asset freeze against individuals responsible for any violations of this resolution as designated by the Committee of the Security Council,

15. Decides to refer the situation in Syria since March 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court,

16. Decides that all Member States shall cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the Prosecutor pursuant to this resolution and urges concerned regional and other international organisations, including the International Independent Commission of Inquiry, to cooperate fully with the Court and the Prosecutor;

17.Affirms that it shall keep the Syrian authorities' actions under continuous review, and stresses its intention, in the event of non-compliance by the Syrian authorities with the provisions of this resolution in light of the reports requested in OP10,to adopt further necessary measures under Chapter VII;


18. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter



Opinion Editorial / The New York Times
Russian Federation President Vladimir V. Putin
September 12, 2013

I have requested permission to reprint this, but until I receive it (or not at all, I suppose, if I don't get such premission) I recommend checking out the original document on The New York Times' website.

I believe that Mr. Putin's Op-Ed can be easily summarized.  First, it is clearly in Russia's self-interest - the fall of the Asad regime would undermine Russian military and commerical power and, as he states, would indeed have the potential of empowering a new generation of radical Sunni fundamentalist militants, militants who might again target the Russian Federation.  Secondly, it is also aimed at reinforcing the no-war-without-the-Security Council (and thus Russia's consent) taboo - one that, as he points out, doesn't exist without reason.  Finally, I think that Mr. Putin is making a jab, one I rather understand, at Mr. Obama's assertion of American exceptionalism - while it is both a less-than-subtle hint that Russia, like most of the world, wants America to self-restrain (for a great explanation of the phenomenon of this check out Kagan's Of Paradise and Power) and to stop believing it is different, and therefore entitled to a separate standard of conduct, from everyone else - something the US is unlikely to do, to say the least.


Carla DePonte - UN report on weapons

White house chemical weapons report