Syrian crisis: Latest developments

Posted at 11:24 AM, Sep 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-03 11:24:56-04

(CNN) — The world is waiting to see whether the United States will strike against the Syrian regime — and whether anyone will join in.

U.S. President Barack Obama said there’s no doubt Syria used chemical weapons on its own civilians on August 21, and he wants to launch attacks, but he first wants to get Congress’ approval after lawmakers come back from recess next week.

Here are the latest developments:


— U.S. President Barack Obama, before meeting Tuesday morning with members of Congress about possible military intervention in Syria, said he believes the U.S. military plan is appropriate, proportional, limited, and “does not involve boots on the ground.” “This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan,” he said.

— The U.S. Defense Department confirmed that it “provided technical assistance and support” for Israel’s missile test over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday. But Pentagon spokesman George Little said the “test had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond” to Syria’s alleged chemical weapons attack last month.


— Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday. A senior State Department official said Kerry will argue that failure to act on Syria “unravels the deterrent impact of the international norm against chemical weapons use.”

— The United States must take action against Syria after its alleged chemical weapons use or risk losing credibility in the world, U.S. Sen. John McCain said on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday morning.

— McCain and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, met Monday with President Barack Obama on Syria. Afterward, McCain told reporters that he is more supportive of a limited military strike on Syria than he had been before the meeting, partly because the administration signaled increased support for the Syrian opposition.

— McCain is a longtime advocate of U.S. intervention in Syria, and he criticized the Obama administration for delaying action to seek the approval of Congress. He said failure to authorize military action would be “catastrophic.”

— Kerry told House Democrats in a phone call Monday that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have offered military assets for any action planned for Syria, two sources on the call told CNN’s Dana Bash.

— Rep. Janice Hahn, D-California, told CNN’s “Around the World” Monday that she remains concerned about the duration and scope of any military action and that the administration still faces many questions from Congress. Hahn said she has been briefed by administration officials twice in the past two days.

— The Obama administration will conduct classified briefings regarding Syria for Congress almost every day this week, CNN’s Dana Bash has learned.

— Kerry will testify before congressional committees Wednesday, congressional sources said. He will testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while he will join Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in a classified briefing for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning.

— Sens. Harry Reid and Robert Menendez, two top Democrats, are working to narrow the scope of President Obama’s proposed authorization to use force in Syria, a Democratic leadership source said Monday. There have been concerns that the original draft doesn’t have an expiration date and doesn’t explicitly prohibit forces on the ground.


— The Middle East “is a powder keg” that will explode if Syria is attacked, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published in part Monday.


— Amid heightened tension in the region, Israel carried out a missile test Tuesday morning in the Mediterranean. Israel’s Ministry of Defense said it and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency “completed a successful flight test (of the) new version of the Sparrow target missile.” This is part of a high-altitude ballistic missile defense system capable of defending against a long-range missile attack.

The trial was carried out from an Israeli test range over the Mediterranean Sea, it said. The Arrow defense system successfully detected and tracked the system, Israel’s Ministry of Defense added.

— The Chinese foreign affairs spokesman said China has noted the U.S. claim of chemical weapons evidence and said the United States has briefed China about the situation. But Beijing believes “any action taken by the international community should abide by the purposes and principles of the U.N. charter,” foreign affairs spokesman Hong Lei said Monday.

— Russia says it doesn’t buy U.S. claims that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons. “There are no facts, there’s only talk about what we know for certain,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. “When we ask for more detailed evidence, they say, ‘You know, it’s all secret, so we can’t show you.’ That means that there are no such facts.”

— Russia plans to send a delegation of lawmakers to the United States to meet with members of Congress over Syria, RIA Novosti reported Monday, citing a top parliament member.

CNN’s Joe Sterling, Mohammed Jamjoom, Saad Abedine, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Yousuf Basil, Josh Levs, Holly Yan, Dana Bash, Tom Dunlavey, Reza Sayah and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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