Syria chemical weapons attack not ordered by Assad - report

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Syria chemical weapons attack not ordered by Assad - report
Published 8-09-2013, 09:19
German intelligence sources suggest that last month's alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus was not ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Bild am Sonntag has reported.

Forces loyal to President Assad had been asking him for four months to use chemical weapons against the rebels, but they still received no approval from the Syrian leader.

Therefore, the August 21 attack "might not have been sanctioned by Assad," the report said.

The newspaper also said citing German intelligence that President Assad is likely to remain in power for a long time, even if the United States conducts military strikes on Syria.

US President Barack Obama recently asked the US Congress to support a limited military intervention in Syria because of the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons, which the US claims killed over a thousand civilians in one attack on August 21.

The unrest in Syria began in March 2011 and later escalated into a civil war.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far, according to UN estimates.

Iraq Sunni leader cautions against Syria strikes

Iraq's most senior Sunni politician cautioned against possible US-led strikes against Syria on Sunday, warning they would "ignite a fire" in the Middle East that could spread across the region.

The remarks were a rare criticism by a Sunni Arab leader of the potential strikes, currently being pushed by the White House against Damascus over an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.

"The military strike will not be beneficial towards Syria and will ignite a fire that will possibly extend to Iraq and nearby countries," said parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the country's most high-profile Sunni Arab politician.

Nujaifi said that he and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, were agreed that "a strike against Syria is not useful."

"It will be a factor for more fire (in the Middle East) and there will probably be a reaction to this," he continued.

"Iraq is not ready to be part of it, and is calling for everybody to move towards a peaceful solution."

Baghdad has sought to publicly avoid taking sides in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking his ouster, but the conflict has spilled over the border on several occasions, and has amplified divisions between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities.

Rebels fighting Assad are overwhelmingly Sunni, while the president hails from the Alawite sect, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Turkey scrambles warplanes after blast on Syria border

Several Turkish F-16 warplanes took off from base in southeastern Diyarbakir after large explosion close to Syrian border, local media reported on Sunday.

Turkey’s Sabah newspaper reported that the warplanes were headed toward Syrian border, according to Bloomberg news agency.

Meanwhile, the state hospital in border town of Reyhanli alerted to receive possible casualties from Syria following explosion, Milliyet newspaper reported, adding that a missile allegedly landed near Syrian village of Sarmade.

Earlier this week, Turkey beefed up a military presence along its southern border with Syria in anticipation of US-led strikes on the regime in Damascus, AFP news agency reported, citing local media.

A 20-vehicle convoy with a tank contingent was deployed to the border area of Yayladagi in Hatay province on Wednesday, and was followed by 15 more vehicles Thursday, Turkish news agency Dogan reported.

Syria's northwestern border with Turkey is one of the few areas on the frontier still in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, state-run news agency Anatolia said an already enlarged troop presence on the southern border would also be reinforced.

Syria rebels seize Christian town Maalula

Syrian rebels have taken control of the historic Christian town of Maalula, north of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog and residents said on Sunday.

"Overnight, Syrian regime troops moved into the village, but rebel forces sent reinforcements and were able to take control of the entire town," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the jihadist Al-Nusra Front was among the forces that had taken control of the town.

A Maalula resident, reached by phone, also confirmed that regime forces had withdrawn from the area and rebel forces were now in control.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the resident said the situation on the ground was quiet.

"The rebels are inside Maalula, all of Maalula. The government troops have pulled out of Maalula," the resident said.

Abdel Rahman said "fierce fighting broke out between regime forces and rebel fighters overnight, and the soldiers withdrew to the outskirts of the town."

Maalula is considered a symbol of the Christian presence in Syria, and many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ that only small, scattered communities around the world still use.

The battle for the town left at least 17 rebels dead and more than 100 wounded, the Observatory said, adding that dozens of regime forces and pro-militia members were also killed or wounded in the fighting.

The clashes erupted on Wednesday, when Al-Nusra Front fighters and other Islamist rebels attacked a regime checkpoint at one entrance to the town.

The advance raised fears of attacks against churches or Christians in the town, and on Friday, the opposition Syrian National Coalition said rebels had withdrawn from the area.

"Free Syrian Army (FSA) units on Wednesday destroyed posts at Maalula and Jabadine held by the army on the Damascus-Homs road after fierce clashes with President Bashar al-Assad's forces and auxiliaries," the Observatory said in a statement on Friday.

"The FSA was stationed for several hours in the vicinity, but did not attack any church or convent," it said.

On Saturday, the Observatory said rebel forces were fighting pro-regime militias in the west of the town, and was also engaged in clashes with Syrian troops on the outskirts of Maalula.

US plans for 3 days of attacks on Syria

The Pentagon is readying more intense and longer attacks on Syria than originally planned, set to last three days, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

War planners now aim to unleash a heavy barrage of missile strikes to be followed swiftly by additional attacks on targets that may have been missed or remain standing after the initial launch, the Times cited officials as saying.

Two US officers told the newspaper that the White House has asked for an expanded target list to include "many more" than the initial list of around 50 targets.

The move is part of an effort to obtain additional firepower to damage Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's dispersed forces.

Pentagon planners are now considering using Air Force bombers, as well as five US missile destroyers currently patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea, to launch cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles from far out of range of Syrian air defenses, according to the report.

The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group with one cruiser and three destroyers positioned in the Read Sea can also fire cruise missiles at Syria.

"There will be several volleys and an assessment after each volley, but all within 72 hours and a clear indication when we are done," an officer familiar with the planning told the Times.

The intensified military planning comes as President Barack Obama prepares to personally make his case to the American people and further press reluctant lawmakers on the need for action after Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people last month.

Obama is scheduled to tape interviews Monday with anchors of the three major broadcast networks, as well as with PBS, CNN and Fox News.

The interviews, to air that night, will precede Obama's address to the nation Tuesday ahead of an expected full Senate vote.

The president favors a limited attack with only a reduced number of warplanes to drop bombs over Syria, according to the Times.

Amid doubts that a limited US offensive would sufficiently hamper Assad's military capabilities, one officer told the newspaper that the planned operation would amount to a "show of force" over several days that would not fundamentally change the situation on the ground.

The planned US strike "will not strategically impact the current situation in the war, which the Syrians have well in hand, though fighting could go on for another two years," another US officer said.


Read more: 

At a press conference after his meeting with France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US does not rule out interfering in the Syrian conflict with force without waiting for the UN's report on Syria.

UN experts are now investigating an incident that took place near Damascus on August 21 and was presumably a chemical attack.

Mr. Kerry said that President Obama is now viewing the possible variants of his future steps and hasn't made a final decision yet.

Voice of Russia, RIA, AFPReuters, dpa,, Interfax, Al Arabiya


Only al-Qaeda to win from Syria attack - expert

According to an announcement posted on the White House’s website, President Obama will go on national networks Tuesday with an address concerning Syria. He has apparently crossed his own ‘red line’ and is prepared to go to war.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama reiterated his determination to punish the Assad regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack near Damascus on August 21. He confirmed his war plans and urged Congress to support them.

The vote will take place on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which were blamed on al-Qaeda. Today, al-Qaeda spearheads the terrorist war on the Syrian government. Late last year, the US Department of State described the Syrian rebel group al-Nusra Front as a branch of al-Qaeda and included it in its list of terrorist organizations.

In a recent interview with The Blaze network, Republican Senator Ted Cruz said Obama is going to extend military support to al-Qaeda.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the Syrian opposition has already supplied the US with a list of 50 sensitive targets of the Assad regime and pledged an all-out offensive as soon as the US military launches air or missile attacks. These matters were under discussion in Washington on Friday when the US capital played host to head of Syria’s National Opposition Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba and Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army General Selim Idris.

True, at the St Petersburg summit of the G20 Friday, 11 of the 20 leaders issued a statement in support of a ‘tough UN resolution’ on Syria as advocated by the United States. This statement, however, did not even mention any military action against Syria.

Unfazed, Obama is determined to go it alone and even without a UN sanction for an attack.

George W.Bush moved forces to Iraq in 2003 after 12 months of issuing threats. He also led a coalition of 49 states.

Obama is prepared to attack Syria after only three weeks of war rhetoric. And he doesn’t have any coalition behind him.

A rather strange record for a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Voice of Russia

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