Latest On Syria From Kerry, France, Russia, Israel
GUARDIAN (UK), LE MONDE (France), AFP, ARUTZ SHEVA, JERUSALEM POST (Israel), RUSSIA TODAY, REUTERS
WASHINGTON — The Syrian crisis shifts in a new direction this week after President Barack Obama's announcement that he will seek Congressional approval for any U.S. intervention.
Following that news, Secretary of State John Kerry clarified that Obama had the right to take action on Syria "no matter what Congress does" when members return from recess on Sept. 9 to vote.
British newspaper the Guardian reports on Kerry's remarks made during a Sunday television appearance. Kerry explained that despite the British Parliament's rejection of a similar authorization vote on Thursday, he expects the American Congress to back the intervention. "We don't contemplate that the Congress is going to vote no," he said.
Barack Obama discusses the situation in Syria with his National Security Staff - Photo: Pete Souza/The White House/ZUMA
Meanwhile in France, AFP reports Monday that the government of President François Hollande will provide members of Parliament with the evidence gathered that it says proves Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the Aug. 21 chemical attack.
The French Parliament is scheduled to hold a debate Wednesday on the Syrian crisis, though it is not clear whether it will be followed by a vote. Hollande is facing increasingly intense pressure from the opposition to allow the Parliament to vote. Former Prime Minister and member of the center-right party UMP, François Fillon said: "I think that in certain circumstances France can't go to war without the clear support of Parliament." Other politicians from centrist parties and the far-left have also called for a parliamentary vote. UMP leader Jean-François Copé, who is in favor of striking, told Le Monde that Hollande had the right not to ask for a vote, but that would place full responsibility for French action on the shoulders of the president.
Obama's decision to put the Syrian question to a Congressional vote attracted intense criticism from Israel. Although the government made no official comment, Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman stated: "The hesitation and hypocrisy of America and the rest of the ‘free world’ confirms the suspicion that when it comes to maintaining the security of the state of Israel, we cannot rely on others and their promises, but we must be prepared to protect and secure ourselves,” Arutz Sheva reports.
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett made similar comments, referring to the "international stuttering and hesitancy on Syria." According to the Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored his ministers not to make further comments on Obama's decision.
During his round of political talk shows on Sunday, John Kerry also claimed that samples collected independently from the United Nations after the Aug. 21 attack and handed over to U.S. authorities had tested positive for the sarin nerve agent. But as the Guardian writes, Kerry gave no details with regards to "the source of the samples, or where or when they had been tested.
Russia Today reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced the West's "regime of secrecy," describing as "inappropriate" the fact that the U.S., Britain and France refuse to share the evidence they claim to possess with regards to the alleged chemical attack in Syria. "If there truly is top secret information available, the veil should be lifted. This is a question of war and peace." Lavrov also said that the evidence previously shown by the West was unconvincing.
"What our American, British and French partners have shown us before — as well as now — does not convince us at all. There are no supporting facts, there is only repetitive talk in the vein of "we know for sure." And when we ask for further clarification, we receive the following response: "You are aware that this is classified information, therefore we cannot show it to you." So there are still no facts," he declared.
While the American Congress vote is still one week away, Reuters reports that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz was ordered to move west toward the Red Sea, along with its strike group, which includes four destroyers and a cruiser. Defense officials told the news agency: "It's about leveraging the assets to have them in place should the capabilities of the carrier strike group and the presence be needed."