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Old August 26th, 2013 (08:04 AM).
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U.N. inspectors come under sniper fire

US: Assad has used chemical weapons

60% of Americans disapprove of intervention in Syria

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The Obama administration hardened its stance against Syria and stepped up plans for possible military action, dismissing as too late the regime's offer to let United Nations officials inspect areas where the U.S. believes Damascus used chemical weapons last week.

The White House and Pentagon signaled the U.S. wasn't backing away from a possible showdown despite apparent efforts by the Syrian government to ease tensions by letting U.N. inspectors visit areas near the capital where hundreds were killed, allegedly by chemical weapons.

If he decides to act militarily, Mr. Obama would prefer to do so with U.N. Security Council backing, but officials said he could decide to work instead with international partners such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the Arab League.

"We'll consult with the U.N. They're an important avenue. But they're not the only avenue," a senior administration official said.

In recent days, the Pentagon has moved more warships into place in the eastern Mediterranean and U.S. war planners have updated military options that include cruise-missile strikes on regime targets, officials said. The White House held high-level meetings over the weekend, but officials said late Sunday that Mr. Obama had yet to decide how to proceed.

The U.S. had urged the Syrians to let U.N. inspectors visit the areas that were bombarded on Wednesday in suspected chemical attacks that opposition groups said killed more than 1,000 people. But the U.S. concluded that evidence at the scene has since been compromised due to continued Syrian shelling and the likely dissipation of any poison gases.

The administration also stepped up its diplomatic outreach to European and Middle Eastern allies this weekend in what officials described as an effort to build a consensus. A day after consulting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr. Obama spoke Sunday with French President François Hollande about "possible responses by the international community," the White House said.

Administration lawyers have been crafting legal justifications for an intervention without U.N. approval that could be based on findings that Mr. Assad used chemical weapons and created a major humanitarian crisis.

The developments reflect a striking shift in tone by the administration that could signal growing support for military action. The White House has guarded against deep U.S. involvement since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011. But over the past year, Mr. Obama has authorized an expanding Central Intelligence Agency role amid signs that Mr. Assad was prevailing with the help of his allies Iran and Hezbollah of Lebanon, officials said.

A final assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies on Mr. Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons could be completed soon, clearing the way for Mr. Obama to decide how to respond. Statements Sunday by senior officials and lawmakers suggested the White House was closer than ever to a decision to strike.

The White House hasn't said which chemical agents it believes were used nor how many people it believes were killed in the alleged chemical-arms attack. That determination could be a major factor for Mr. Obama in deciding what to do, officials said.

A senior administration official stressed that Mr. Obama could act now because of the scale of casualties in last week's incident. Previously, the U.S. accused Mr. Assad of using of chemical weapons only on a small scale.

British, French, Turkish and Israeli officials also have accused the Syrian regime in the suspected chemical attack.

Syria has denied using chemical weapons, and a Syrian army spokesman said Saturday that it found chemicals in liquid form and U.S.-made gas masks in a rebel hideout. The spokesman said this constituted "definitive proof" that it was rebels who used the chemical weapons last week, not the Syrian military.

Syria's Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubi, speaking on a Lebanese news channel, warned Saturday against a military strike. "The chaos and the ball of fire and flames will consume not only Syria but the entire Middle East," he said.

The White House's reluctance to intervene more forcefully in Syria over the last 2½ years has fueled criticism from some U.S. lawmakers and regional allies.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, traveling in Malaysia, said Sunday that the U.S. was weighing both the risks of taking action as well as the costs of not acting. Mr. Hagel said it was critical for the U.S. government and its allies to determine "what would be the objective" of any actions against the Syrian government.

Officials cautious of intervening say targeted strikes to punish Mr. Assad for using chemical weapons risk triggering a bloody escalation. If the regime digs in and uses chemical weapons again, or launches retaliatory attacks against the U.S. and its allies in the region, Mr. Obama will come under fierce pressure to respond more forcefully, increasing the chances of full-scale war, the officials say.

In keeping with Mr. Obama's goal of avoiding deep U.S. involvement, the leading military options presented to the White House wouldn't require American warplanes to fly through Syria's heavily guarded airspace, officials briefed on the plans say.

Rather, the options call for pinpoint strikes with cruise missiles, most likely from warships that have been moved into the eastern Mediterranean, within striking distance of Damascus.

Officials who support intervening say the biggest danger for the U.S. would be for Mr. Obama to threaten to take military action now and then not follow through. They say Mr. Assad would interpret inaction by the U.S. as a green light to step up his offensive and use chemical weapons in the conflict on a wider scale.

Arab officials have told their American counterparts that the U.S. needs to intervene now because failure to do so will be interpreted by Iran as a sign that the U.S. will do nothing to stop Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

A guiding principle for Mr. Obama has been to take steps in Syria with the least risk of drawing the U.S. into the conflict, which has become a messy regional proxy war in which fighters linked to al Qaeda play an increasingly important part in the fight against Mr. Assad. The U.S. wants Mr. Assad to go but doesn't want to empower the Islamists either, officials and diplomats say.

U.S. and Arab officials who advocate limited American strikes say they won't only send a message to Mr. Assad's forces that chemical weapons use won't be tolerated but could create rifts within the Syrian regime and military that could undercut Mr. Assad's hold on power down the road.

Russia put Washington on notice Sunday that it would oppose any unilateral military action in Syria. The Russian Foreign Ministry drew a parallel between reports of chemical-weapons use and Washington's 2003 intervention in Iraq following what proved to be unfounded U.S. accusations that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's government had weapons of mass destruction.

In the past, U.N. Security Council resolutions seeking to punish Mr. Assad have been blocked by Russia, which was critical of the NATO-led mission in Libya in 2011.

Administration lawyers have, however, developed alternative legal approaches that Mr. Obama could opt to use to justify a military intervention without U.N. backing, including a finding that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons contrary to "established international norms," officials said. Administration lawyers based these approaches on President Bill Clinton's justification for the Kosovo bombing campaign in 1999, which wasn't authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

On Sunday, the U.N. said its inspection team was preparing to start its fact-finding mission on Monday after Syria said it would allow U.N. personnel now in Damascus immediate access to the affected areas.

"The team must be able to conduct a full, thorough and unimpeded investigation," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday night. However, the team is only mandated to determine if chemical weapons were used, not who used them, Mr. Ban's spokesman said.

Syrian state television, airing a statement attributed to the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said agreement was reached following a meeting between Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Angela Kane, the U.N. disarmament chief, who arrived in Damascus on Saturday. The Syrian statement said the timing of the visit would be coordinated between the U.N. team led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom and the Syrian government.

However, it wasn't clear how the U.N. team would be able to start the work given the continuing military campaign. All areas in question have been sealed off by the military and strenuous restrictions were imposed at checkpoints.

Human-rights groups say victims of Wednesday's attack bear the hallmarks of sarin nerve gas. Doctors Without Borders said over the weekend that three opposition-run hospitals it supports in Damascus reported receiving about 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over less than three hours on Wednesday. Of those, 355 died, the Paris-based group said.

U.S. officials said the Syrian regime's unwillingness to allow inspectors to enter the area over the past five days has degraded their ability to conduct a thorough assessment.

"If the Syrian government had nothing to hide and wanted to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons in this incident, it would have ceased its attacks on the area and granted immediate access to the U.N. five days ago," a senior White House official said.

"At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team is too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days," the official added.

The official said that—based on the reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured and other information—"there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident."


Use this thread to discuss the ongoing Syrian conflict, including but not limited to:
  • Alleged chemical/biological weapons use.
  • Possibility of US/International intervention - who, when, what kind of intervention?
  • Effect on Middle Eastern relations, specifically Iran.
  • Political implications for current administration(s).

Discuss!
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Old August 26th, 2013 (05:46 PM).
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60% Americans disapprove? Haha, nothing's going to happen then. It's not the Cold War anymore, can't go around with the passive-aggressive proxy war thing anymore.

I don't know if anything's going to happen. If an intervention happens, I feel that regime change is the only way that it could be declared a "success". And those are really high stakes that Russia and China would not desire, but would also involve huge sunk costs without any guarantee of return.
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Old August 26th, 2013 (06:33 PM).
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I'm so tired of our government trying to interfere with every single conflict in the world. It's NOT in our best interests to interfere in ANY conflict. Let these people deal with their problems on their own. No one appreciates it when the United States government interferes, and that reflects poorly on its people, who oppose the interference but have no power to change the government's actions.
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Old August 26th, 2013 (06:53 PM).
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I'm cautious about beleiving the Chemical weapons attack. I was too young during the start of the Iraq war to be part of the discussion or to really notice what was going on but I have learned from it's mistakes. We shouldn't be too quick to rush into wars, especially interventionalist wars.

I hope that the U.S. and N.A.T.O keep calm, and think this throughly unlike with what they did with the Iraq war. Especially since Russia may become involved in this if we do anything...the whole region may explode more than it already has and devour the world in it's third world war...
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Old August 26th, 2013 (07:04 PM).
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I'm with the 60% on this one. We really don't have any business interfering there, nor does Britain, France, or anyone else in NATO, not to mention a strike is not going to make Russia happy. Let Syria sort this problem out themselves. My opinion was the same for Egypt, so I don't see why it should be any different for Syria.
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Old August 26th, 2013 (07:22 PM).
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The question you have to ask yourselves though, is that here we have a grave human rights issue, chemical weapon use on civilian populations by the Government. So it's not made up like Iraq. Do we leave them to their own devices, against an enemy the resistance cannot defeat? (Since it's probably obvious the Russians are/will help Assad) Do we help them fight back?
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Old August 26th, 2013 (07:47 PM). Edited August 26th, 2013 by CarcharOdin.
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Maybe there can be some intervention, but only after careful deliberation. This is a tricky situation we deal with. If we help the rebels, Russia won't be too pleased since they support Assad's regime. This could damage relations, which are already as of now split almost down the middle.

I don't know if there will be escalation to war if NATO strikes, but all I know for right now is there's no easy solution to this, including just staying out of it.

Keep in mind, a lot of Americans are on the disagreeing side because a) we're not sure if we can afford to help the Syrian resistance and b) we're uneasy about whether or not a military interference by the U.S. will damage our reputation further.

In any case, this is definitely something all member nations of NATO will want to keep a close eye on.

EDIT:

Found an interesting video on the situation that brings some new perspective:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLTkMYg4zbI

Moar discussion.
Does this change your view on the situation or keep it the same?
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Old August 27th, 2013 (08:03 AM). Edited August 27th, 2013 by Livewire.
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It's looking like we're headed for an altercation with Syria, whether it be NATO or just the U.S., based on Secretary Kerry's words last night. As to what that might be, well, that's still on the table.

Edit: The French president Hollande said quote "France will punish Syria", and work alongside the UK and America.
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Old August 27th, 2013 (09:14 AM).
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Personally, I'm hesitant about the US and others taking sides because I don't entirely believe the rebels would be any better than Assad. Like in Egypt, Mubarak went, but we got the Muslim Brotherhood in its place. Certain it's really bad when chemical weapons are used, but when you leave a power vacuum and things collapse into fighting on streets and there's no safety for anyone (see also: Iraq) I don't see that as much of an improvement.

The US and others should provide humanitarian aid instead of weapons and military intervention.
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Old August 27th, 2013 (09:45 AM).
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I'm currently watching today's press conference on Syria. It sounds like we have little options...I hate it though how the government won't even wait for the UN to give back the results...sounds like they're rushing into this thing...
I think that there's a 95 percent chance of an attack on Syria by the US and allies now...
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Old August 27th, 2013 (11:36 AM). Edited August 27th, 2013 by ikki5.
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In my opinion, I believe they should just be left alone. I honestly do not understand why the US wants to go in and Knowing Obama, they probably will which in reality is a stupid idea. I makes me even more sad that my own government is aligning themselves with the US (Stephan Harper..... I hate him lol) but they won't help with anything. Like, Iraq and Afghanastan are still in a message and now we have the problem with Iran and Russia telling the US if the take action that there will be consequences which when you think about it, scares the hell out of me and should probably scare the hell out of many Americans because Russia and Iran are not some small countries where you can just drop a few bombs and they'd be crippled. These are nations that would give a full fighting force back in which if it ever did escalate to a full scale war, the draft would need to be instituted and I doubt many will be happy. Then at the same time, Syria has also threatened if attacked, then it would strike Israel which would bring Israel to to stick back causing even more from the other countries that want to destroy Israel. So I would hope that the US would be willing to hold back because this could potentially turn into the next 3rd war over something so stupid that really, doesn't benefit them Really, there is nothing to achieve in Syria, regardless of which side wins, it will not help the US at all in any standing because either side... in the end, will not want to help the US or any of the other major countries. Most of them hate the US but love them when they want to give them arms.

The other issue here in why I say the US is going to go in is simply this. Assad has been said to have used Chemical weapons. But there has been no actual evidence that said it was Assad however the US claims they have this but they won't reveal it. Now we have Assad allowing the UN to investigate while rebel forces are hesitant. But the thing is, if it is found the governemtn used them, the US says "yeah, we told you so" If no evidence is found that Assad use them then it is "they destroyed the evidence." So there is really a no win situation for Assad if they are trying to prove it was not them. Personally I believe it was actually the rebel forces as there have been some nasty things that they have done such as execute and entire village of people because they were christian, Or when they decapitated Some priest or Nun (can't remember which, might be both). Now I am not saying that the government didn't do bad things to. I know that they have killed other civilians. But this is just it, people are taking sides for some reason when both sides have really done some atrocious things and I don't know why, especially when taking sides really gives them no actually advantageous outcome unless it is simply to weaken the power of Iran and possibly Russia. Other than that, nothing and it will always remain a mystery to me.
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Old August 27th, 2013 (04:38 PM).
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NEWSBREAK! NEWSBREAK! apparently the US has just ruled out regime change in Syria. So the only option left is powersharing right? This is interesting and I don't know how well the idea will sell but all that's left is to convince both sides that neither can win while the other survives (points to whoever gets the reference)
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Old August 27th, 2013 (08:43 PM).
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Well.... Germany has stated it won't be going in at all.... I guess it is going to be time to break out the popcorn....
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Old August 27th, 2013 (10:45 PM).
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Yeah, I only found out about this through Anonymous saying they were going to help somehow... man I just love those guys in Guy Fawkes Masks
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Old August 28th, 2013 (08:03 AM).
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So since regime change is off the table, then....what's the objective? Carpet bomb them into submission, with probably heavy civilian casualties? Not to mention, the rebels are essentially Al Queda. Assad's governement = Hezbollah. You can't win here.
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Old August 28th, 2013 (02:14 PM).
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Which is why I think it'd be best if we just stayed the fudge out of it. Powers sake, I thought Al Qaeda were our enemies. What happened?
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Old August 28th, 2013 (05:02 PM).
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Personally, I think the West has to go in XD. It would be a failure of nearly two days of norm development of R2P if the international community did not respond. The Syrian state is clearly not protecting its population and there is every right to intervene for humanitarian reasons. Regardless of who wins and who loses, I think it's pretty fair to call it a failure on the part of the UN, its humanitarian norms, and the international community if atrocities continue to occur.

Haha I know right? I dunno how you could sell a not-regime-change solution to the American public. But it looks like other Western powers are jumping in (and I can't really comment on them :\). I'm assuming some form of powersharing and coalition government will be the solution they end up going for? Requires more research in any case
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Old August 30th, 2013 (09:20 AM). Edited August 30th, 2013 by KingCharizard.
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Quote originally posted by Magmaruby and Aquasapphire:
I'm currently watching today's press conference on Syria. It sounds like we have little options...I hate it though how the government won't even wait for the UN to give back the results...sounds like they're rushing into this thing...
I think that there's a 95 percent chance of an attack on Syria by the US and allies now...
They are rushing it, and there is still no definite proof that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. They say the rebels aren't capable of using the chemical weapons but I disagree you'd be surprised what people can do when they are determined or desperate. And who knows what they could have gotten their hands on in this war, the rebels are just as bad as the government...

I read an article awhile back that rebel leaders were eating human hearts, killing civilians who supported the government and more crap like that.. So at this point I dont care what measures are used against either side and I see no reason to start another world war over this...

If we rush into an attack Russia will get furious and China wont like it either, and neither one of them are good enemies to have.. Also Iran has a decent military force which I wouldn't want to fight either at this point.

I think we stayed out of it for two years now, why get involved now, if he has to use chemical weapons to end this pointless fighting then so be it.. Who are we to judge leaders using drastic and uncalled for measures to win a war, did everyone forget the Atom bomb and Hiroshima?

Japan bombed a military base so we blow up a whole freaking city filled with innocent with men, women and children who arent involved in the war?

I think the US should say out of it and if we do get involved I wont be happy neither will alot of americans...
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Old August 30th, 2013 (01:20 PM).
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All the things that John Kerry said today at that press conference sound good. I mean, chemical weapons are horrible and if Assad has used them then he should be punished by the international community, but unfortunately Russia and China don't like the idea of people criticizing what countries do within their borders (presumable because they want to keep discriminating against people in their countries with impunity) so we can't get UN backing to do... something to help the people in Syria. I don't care if the Assad regime falls. I don't care if the rebels get killed. I care that civilians and innocent people are being killed, but there's no clear way of protecting them.

I dunno. Maybe we in the Western world should open our doors to Syrian refugees. If we can't stop the fighting perhaps we can at least help people get out of the line of fire.
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Old August 30th, 2013 (05:47 PM). Edited August 31st, 2013 by Kanzler.
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UK and Germany have already turned down a military option due to parliamentary decisions. The US might go around looking for a coalition of the willing again, but who the hell wants to enforce UN norms and protect populations anyways? Also, Russia and China do tend to have non-interventionist and sovereignist stances on most things. Also, both of them fear Islamic radicalization as they do have Muslim populations within their borders that can get, unruly, let's say.

At the end of the day this is still a political conflict. There is a rebellion and fighting between a weakened establishment and those who seek to fill the gap. There is a variety of coalitions - meaning they're not really united. It's not Baath Party vs. X- other Party, so it's even harder to consider any of the alternative as legitimate in any way. Are the opposition warlords or do they have a cohesive national vision and the ability to set it in action? From this perspective, the non-interventionist logic is clear. <== neup, overstated. Yes Russia and China don't respect human rights when it gets in the way of the national agenda, but it's valid to say that there isn't an alternative and they're especially not fans of "creating an alternative" - we know how well that usually turns out. If the Assad regime does turn out to be the ones to use chemical weapons - which seems to be more likely than not, they should be punished. But to make it a punitive campaign instead of a protracted war would make what's increasingly turning into anarchy worse and that would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

I think it's important to consider the political outcome carefully, because that will determine whether or not the new political order is sustainable, lest we have something like this occur again a decade or two from now or have this conflict spillover to the rest of the Middle East.
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Old August 31st, 2013 (07:59 AM).
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Putin has graced us with his objective and unbiased opinion

On top of that, the United States has sent a 6th Battleship to the Mediterranean as a precaution/in the event we strike Syria. Without GB, we'd have the US and France? Maybe some Aussies? Not much of a coalition there.
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Old August 31st, 2013 (08:14 AM).
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I don't know what happened to France, or why they hate Syria, but they're damn giddy to get to some bombing. "All options are on the table." - François Hollande, President of France

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/france-ready-to-strike-syria-without-british-help-says-president/article14036577/
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French military analysts say France’s most likely role would be from the air, including use of Scalp cruise missiles that have a range of about 500 kilometres (300 miles), fired from Mirage and Rafale fighter jets. French fighters could likely fly directly from mainland France — much as they did at the start of a military campaign against Islamic radicals in Mali earlier this year — with support from refuelling aircraft. France also has six Rafale jets at Al Dhafra air base, near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf, and 7 Mirage-2000 jets at an air base in Djibouti, on the Red Sea.
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Old August 31st, 2013 (08:32 AM).
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Quote originally posted by BraveNewWorld:
I don't know what happened to France, or why they hate Syria... President of France
I would bet it has much to do with the French colonization of Syria in the early 1900's, conflict between France and Syrian government over authority.

European colonization has ruined the middle east, and the many country's relationships with European nations.
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  #24    
Old August 31st, 2013 (10:15 AM).
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BraveNewWorld BraveNewWorld is offline
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Just watched Obama's address on Syria.

Things that he went over for those who didn't see it.

Came out firing (bad analogy?). Mentioning the Syrian government deliberately rounding up their own men, women, and children and killing them. United States certain that chemical weapons were used.

Brought up a good point about upholding international war crime laws.

Condemned most of the world for not caring about breach of war crime laws - chemical weapons.

Specifically chastised the British Parliament for failing to uphold said laws. Praised Cameron, though.

Said that Congress will hold a vote at their next session on military action in Syria. (Congress next meets September 9th.
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Old August 31st, 2013 (12:08 PM).
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Quote:
Putin told journalists that if Obama had evidence Assad's forces had the chemical weapons and launched the attack, Washington should present it to the U.N. weapons inspectors and the Security Council.
This is true, however. The US certainly tried to do this to the best of their ability prior to the Iraq invasion. I suspect it could be shrewd political calculation to get the vote for intervention out of the way in the UK and Germany, instead of having the vote after such evidence is presented - as more MPs would be pressured to vote yes. Evidence before the UN is probably the best way to get a mandate for intervention. But it doesn't have to happen.

Also, my appraisal of how well a coalition would work out earlier is underinformed and probably a bit too pessimistic. I generalized their The opposition is united and they have diplomatic recognition - though only by certain NATO and Gulf countries.

What they need, however, is teeth but I'm not sure how effective and moral it would be to pick winners. In addition, lot of people in the Middle East will be scared by another Western intervention. And most of us, citizens, oppose interventions by our own countries. The European economy is projected to pick up again soon, but unemployment is still high. And the US isn't running Clinton surpluses anymore. I suppose the coalition could take a backseat role with airstrikes so it wouldn't piss off us civies much.
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