U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking broader support abroad after Senate panel approves strike.
UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will hold “sideline discussions” to push for an international peace conference.
Syrians form human shields around potential military targets l Pope says military solution would be a “futile pursuit”
Debates over Syria’s civil war and the potential of U.S. military strikes there are expected to overshadow a meeting of world leaders beginning Thursday in Russia, Voice of America reports.
The Syrian crisis is not on the official agenda for the two-day Group of 20 global economic summit in Saint Petersburg, but leaders are expected to discuss it on the sidelines. U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking broader support, both at home and abroad, for military strikes against Syria’s government for allegedly using chemical weapons on civilians.
A day before the G20 summit, a key U.S. Senate panel approved a plan that would call for limited strikes but rules out the use of ground troops. The measure will go to the full Senate next week, and must pass there, as well as in the House of Representatives, where it could meet stiff resistance from Republican Party lawmakers.
Wednesday’s 10-7 Senate Foreign Relations committee vote came as Mr. Obama’s top foreign policy and defence advisers testified for a second day in Congress, trying to persuade doubtful lawmakers to approve the president’s plan for a strike against Syria’s military capabilities.
Secretary of State John Kerry spent much of the afternoon speaking to a House of Representatives committee.
According to Channel 4, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement that a US strike on a miniature reactor near Damascus or on other nuclear facilities, could contaminate the region with radioactivity. “The consequences would be catastrophic,” he said. Russia’s foreign ministry has submitted a formal request to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ask it to consider the implications of a strike on Syrian nuclear installations. IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said on Thursday that the agency is ready to “consider the questions raised.”
On Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also levelled criticism at the possibility of US military action in Syria. Ayatollah Khamenei was reported as saying US plans to intervene on “humanitarian grounds” is a pretext to interfere in the country.
In a letter to Vladimir Putin sent ahed of the G20 Summit, Pope Francis said a military solution in Syria would be a “futile pursuit” .
Obama argues for military action
In Sweden Wednesday, President Obama said a failure to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Damascus would only increase the chance they would be used again.
Obama said the world had long ago determined that using chemical weapons could not be tolerated. Thus, he said, his own credibility is not at stake if there is no action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The international community’s credibility is on the line,’’ he said. “And America and Congress’ credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.” The president acknowledged that many Europeans are hesitant to act militarily against Syria because of the incorrect allegations of weapons of mass destruction that led to the war in Iraq. “I’m not interested in repeating mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty intelligence, but having done a thorough evaluation of the information that is currently available, I can say with high confidence chemical weapons were
Russia, China issue warnings
Russia, Syria’s main supplier of arms, and China have already vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria. Speaking ahead of the summit, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhu Guangyao said Thursday any military action against Syria would cause a hike in oil prices and have a “negative impact” on the global economy. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Western strikes without U.N. Security Council approval would be an unacceptable “aggression.” But he said he would support a strike if there were “convincing” proof that Damascus used chemical weapons. Mr. Putin urged the U.S. to present “convincing” evidence about chemical weapons to the United Nations. He said Russia has suspended the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missile components to Syria, but would reconsider if steps are taken that “violate international norms.”
UN hopes for political solution
Even as the U.S. pushes for possible strikes, U.N. officials continue to look for a political settlement to the conflict. Officials say U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is headed to St. Petersburg to help U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon organize a Syrian peace conference. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said any use of chemical weapons in Syria is an “outrageous war crime,” and he called on the Security Council to “unite and develop an appropriate response” to bring the perpetrators to justice.
And while the political manoeuvring continues, in Syria the fighting continues.
On Thursday it was reported that the al-Qaeda linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusrah had entered the town of Maaloula.
Syrians are preparing for the worst in the expectation that it is no longer if but when US airstrikes come, Euronews reports. That includes regime loyalists joining hands around potential military and political targets; human shields ready to sacrifice themselves for their leader and country.