US President Barack Obama is vowing that American retaliation for Syrian chemical weapons use would send a “strong signal,” as US intelligence officials readied briefings for Congress on evidence aimed at linking last week’s attack to President Bashar Assad’s government.
But even as the US moves closer to possible military action, new hurdles appear to be slowing the formation of an international coalition to undertake military action. And questions remain about the strength of the case against Assad.
Russia blocked British efforts to seek a force resolution at the United Nations. British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would hold off on joining any military efforts until a UN chemical weapons inspection team releases its findings – a step that is unlikely to happen until next week.
Still, the Obama administration vowed to take action even without the backing of allies or the UN The president said that while he had not settled on a response to last week’s purported chemical weapons attack near Damascus, he said the US has concluded that Assad’s regime perpetrated the attack, which killed at least 100 Syrians.
“And if that’s so,” Obama said during an interview with NewsHour on PBS, “then there need to be international consequences.”
Obama did not present specific evidence to back up his assertion that the Assad regime is responsible for the August 21 attack.
US officials were also in search of additional intelligence to bolster the White House’s case for a strike against Assad’s military infrastructure. American intelligence intercepted lower-level Syrian military commanders’ communications discussing the chemical attack, but the communications don’t specifically link the attack to an official senior enough to tie the killings to Assad himself, according to three US intelligence officials.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the intelligence publicly.
The administration was planning an intelligence teleconference briefing on Thursday on Syria for leaders of the House and Senate and the national security committees in Congress, US officials and congressional aides said. Officials also said an unclassified version of the report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence would be made public this week.
The White House ideally wants intelligence that links the attack directly to Assad or someone in his inner circle, to rule out the possibility that a rogue element of the military decided to use chemical weapons without Assad’s authorisation.
That quest for added intelligence has delayed the release of the report laying out evidence against Assad. The report was promised earlier this week by administration officials.
The CIA and the Pentagon have been working to gather more human intelligence tying Assad to the attack, relying on the intelligence services of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the officials said.
Both the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency have their own human sources – the rebel commanders and others who cross the border to brief CIA and defence intelligence officers at training camps in Jordan and Turkey. But their operation is much smaller than some of the other intelligence services, and it takes longer for their contacts to make their way overland.
Britain added a hurdle to deliberations about a military strike on Wednesday when it went to the UN Security Council with a draft resolution that would authorise the use of military force against Syria. The British resolution would authorise “all necessary measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to protect civilians from chemical weapons.” Chapter 7 allows the use of international armed force to back up UN decisions.
As expected, the five permanent members of the Security Council failed to reach an agreement as Russia reiterated its objections to international intervention in the Syrian crisis. Russia, along with China, has blocked past attempts to sanction the Assad government.
Obama said he was not seeking a lengthy, open-ended conflict in Syria, indicating that any US response would be limited in scope.
US President, Donald Trump, Wife Test Positive For Covid-19
President of the United States, Donald Trump, and his wife, Melania Trump have both tested positive for COVID-19.
The President took to his official Twitter handle on Friday to make this announcement.
Trump was last seen in public on Thursday afternoon, returning to the White House after a fundraising trip to New Jersey.
Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020
On Thursday, he announced that his aide, Hope Hicks tested positive for the virus which has killed over 1 million people around the world.
He further revealed that he and the first lady had taken the test and waiting for the results before announcing the outcome on Friday.
Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible! The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020
Mali: N’Daw, Coup Leader Goita Sworn In As President, VP
Retired Army Colonel, Bah N’Daw has been sworn in on Friday as the interim president of Mali and he is to head a transitional government following last month’s military coup in the country.
The swearing-in ceremony held in the country’s capital city of Bamako, where Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the military junta, was also sworn in as interim vice president.
This administration is to lead the government for a maximum of 18 months before organising national elections.
It will be recalled that the country’s military executed a coup last month (August 18) which successfully removed the nation’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from office.
Former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, attended the ceremony alongside other members of the ECOWAS mediation team.
Today, we witnessed the swearing-in of His Excellency Mr. Bah N'daw and Colonel Assimi Goita as President and Vice President of Mali's Transition Govt. The #Ecowas mediation team congratulates these new Malian leaders and wish them success.
– GEJ pic.twitter.com/TQ9kinviQN
— Goodluck E. Jonathan (@GEJonathan) September 25, 2020
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