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Syria

One day after the United States and Russia announced a deal to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, the first official reaction has emerged from the Syrian regime, which calls it a "victory." Syria's rebels are criticizing the plan, saying it doesn't punish President Bashar Assad.

Earlier this week President Obama asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on legislation that would authorize the use of force against Syria. Joshua Landis provides an update on what's next in the volatile region.

Later, journalist Erielle Reshef joins Suzette Grillot for a conversation about covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before returning to her home state last year to anchor and report for KOCO-TV, the Oklahoma City native spent several years working for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority.

Pete Souza / The White House

Earlier this week President Obama asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on legislation that would authorize the use of force against Syria.

“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,” the president said in a televised address to the nation Tuesday night.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of the influential and widely-read blog Syria Comment, says the new diplomatic development is a victory for Moscow.

As Secretary of State John Kerry was preparing to sit down with his Russian counterpart Thursday to discuss whether the Assad regime's chemical weapons can be handed over to international monitors, the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army was telling NPR that "the Russian initiative is just a lie."

An online survey of 750 active-duty U.S. troops suggests that opposition to striking Syria is "more intense" among military personnel than among the American public.

Military Times, a publication and newssite owned by Gannett Co. (not the federal government) reports that:

As U.S. lawmakers weigh whether to support an attack on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, military planners have expanded the target list for a potential strike.

The Pentagon had been focused on attacking Syria with so-called standoff weapons — cruise missiles, for example. Launched from ships, they can attack Syrian positions without placing American pilots in danger. Cruise missiles are very precise, and perfect for hitting fixed targets, such as command-and-control centers the Syrian military relies on.

The arguments for and against taking military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians were laid out Monday on Morning Edition.

Making the case for a "legitimate, necessary and proportional response" was Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

This won't be a standard party-line vote. Big factions within both parties remain skeptical about President Obama's plans to launch punitive airstrikes against Syria.

If the vote were held today, it might not pass. Obama and his allies — including top House leaders of both parties — have a big selling job yet to do to persuade a majority of members to authorize military action.

Today, it was the U.S. House of Representative's turn to question the Obama administration about its plan for a military strike on Syria.

Although he says he did not ask Congress to authorize the use of force against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime "as a symbolic gesture," President Obama reiterated Wednesday that "I always reserve the right and responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security."

By "taking out Bashar Assad's delivery capabilities of chemical weapons" the U.S. can make it much harder for the Syrian leader to wage war against his people and perhaps level the fighting field or turn it in favor of Assad's opponents, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Tuesday on Morning Edition.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that tests have shown evidence of Syria's use of the chemical agent sarin in an attack on the opposition last month that the White House has blamed on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"I can share with you today that blood and hair samples that have come to us through an appropriate chain of custody from East Damascus, from first responders, it has tested positive for signatures of sarin," Kerry told CNN on Sunday.

As President Obama and Congress decide how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Joshua Landis outlines some of the implications for both the United States and the Middle East.

Later, a conversation with Chad and Tara Jordan of Cornerstone International. The siblings and Oklahoma native founded the consulting firms to teach businesses and non-profits how to provide humanitarian aid more efficiently.

Pete Souza / The White House

President Barack Obama says he hasn't made a final decision about a military strike against Syria. But he says he's considering a limited and narrow action in response to a chemical weapons attack that he says Syria'sgovernment carried out last week.

“We don't know how hard they're going to hit [President Bashar] Assad, but clearly they're going to hit Assad,” says Joshua Landis, a leading Syria watcher and the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “What Obama articulated very clearly is that we can hit him hard enough to dissuade him from using chemical weapons again. So it's worth it to try to extend that and punish Assad and make him think twice about using again.”

Obama says that attack was a challenge to the world and threatens U.S. national security.

 

Though Great Britain won't be joining in any military action aimed at Syria, it appears the White House is determined to go ahead — most likely within the next few days and most likely with missile strikes.

We'll be following the news throughout the day and over the weekend. As Friday dawns, here's where things stand:

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Congress is in recess until September 9th, but lawmakers are calling for congressional involvement to any U.S. response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against civilians last week.

This evening, U.S. House and Senate leaders will get a briefing from the White House. President Obama has said he is certain that the chemical weapon attack was initiated by Syria’s President Bashar Assad.

Some of the latest developments related to the crisis in Syria and the increasing likelihood that the U.S. and its allies will soon launch missile strikes on targets there in response to last week's alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar Assad:

Joshua Landis provides an update on Syria after anti-government activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime of carrying out a toxic gas attack, and the panel discusses the renewed focus on U.S. gun culture after the murder of an Australian student in Oklahoma.

The departing director of the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art says 21st Century art will be shaped by music, video, and other mixed media to visually express ideas in new and exciting ways. Ghislain d’Humières takes over as the CEO of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville Sept. 3.

Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo / U.S. Department of Defense / Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week Syrian anti-government activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime of carrying out a toxic gas attack. Death tolls as high as 1,300 have been reported, but the government has called the allegations “absolutely baseless.”

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, tells KGOU’s World Views that video footage clearly shows something horrible has happened.

U.S. Weighing Syria Options

Aug 23, 2013
Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo / U.S. Department of Defense / Wikimedia Commons

The Pentagon is updating target lists as the White House considers a military response in Syria, after an attack in which U.S. officials say they saw “strong indications” of chemical weapons use.

U.S. officials are saying that there are “strong indications” that chemical weapons were used in this week’s attack in Syria which left more than 1,000 people dead.

While experts are still sifting through the evidence, President Barack Obama, speaking on CNN today, said, “what we’ve seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern.”

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