August 28th, 2013
08:23 PM ET

U.S. officials: United States to act on Syria on its own timetable

By Elise Labott
CNN

As President Barack Obama insisted he has made no decision on how to respond to Syria, behind the scenes American officials insisted Wednesday that ultimately the president will decide on his own timeline, dismissing the notion that maneuvers in the United Nations and British Parliament suggest a longer-term horizon before any cohesive response.

“We can’t wait, we need to act according to our own national interests,” said one senior U.S. official.  While the official noted the president has not made any decisions yet, “this is moving quickly.”

The British Parliament is set Thursday to consider a resolution that calls for no military action before the United Nations Security Council considers a report from weapons inspectors who are still in Syria and who are expected to be there for several more days.

“Why do we need to wait for a UN report to tell us what we already know,” said a second senior U.S. official.  Any decision to respond would not wait for UN inspectors, he said, noting the United States has told the UN it is not safe to be there.  But “if they are there, it is not going to stop us.” Targets would not be in areas where inspectors are located.

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U.S. works to build coalition to act outside of U.N. mandate
August 28th, 2013
05:31 PM ET

U.S. works to build coalition to act outside of U.N. mandate

By Elise Labott

The United States is working to build international support for military action against Syria, essentially bypassing the United Nations, U.S. officials and diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

As it mulls a possible strike against the Syrian regime in response to last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack by government forces, the sources predicted Russian opposition at the U.N. Security Council would force the United States and a coalition of states to act alone.

A draft Security Council resolution condemning Syria's alleged poison gas use, which killed hundreds of civilians, has stalled due to "intransigence," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday.

The permanent five members of the Security Council who each have veto power – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – met earlier in the day without reaching consensus.
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Consequences of Syria attack aren't easily defined
August 28th, 2013
04:42 PM ET

Consequences of Syria attack aren't easily defined

By Larry Shaughnessy

As official Washington, as well as its allies and the United Nations, debates the merits of an attack on Syria, one conclusion could easily be drawn: Little good and a whole lot of bad can come from such an attack.

A week ago, a chemical weapons attack killed nearly 1,300 people, including women and children, according to rebel leaders.

Since then, there have been calls for President Barack Obama to make good on his word that Syria's use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and require a direct response.
Obama is still weighing what to do.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday that, “The options that we are considering are not about regime change. They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons."
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August 28th, 2013
04:38 PM ET

Warnings of quagmire in Syria as U.S. contemplates military response

By Tom Cohen

Haven't we heard this before?

With President Barack Obama examining how - not whether - the United States will respond to what it calls a major chemical weapons attack in Syria, some are warning of another potential open-ended war if America launches an expected military strike.

Obama's options appear to range from limited missile strikes in Syria to continued diplomatic efforts - what critics contend is a "do-nothing" approach.

While noted hawks such as GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona call for a robust response intended to weaken Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and turn the tide of the nation's civil war, others worry that the inevitable result will be an inextricable mess.

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U.S., North Korea to meet on detained American
August 28th, 2013
11:20 AM ET

U.S., North Korea to meet on detained American

By Jill Dougherty

The United States is hopeful that a visit to Pyongyang aimed at securing the release of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae will be "straightforward," but a U.S. official speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue tells CNN there are "no guarantees."

Ambassador Robert King, who's President Obama's special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will join a small delegation flying to Pyongyang on a U.S. military jet Friday. They are expected to spend 24 hours on the ground, meeting with North Korean officials.

"The sole purpose of the trip is to secure Bae's release," the official says. "Our expectation is that now is the time to move forward and resolve this, to release this American."
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Syrian civil war in photos
August 28th, 2013
09:25 AM ET

For U.S., Syria is truly a problem from hell

By Peter Bergen

What is widely recognized as the most authoritative study of the United States' responses to mass killings around the world - from the massacres of Armenians by the Turks a century ago, to the Holocaust, to the more recent Serbian atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and the ethnic cleansing of the Tutsis in Rwanda - concluded that they all shared unfortunate commonalities:

"Despite graphic media coverage, American policymakers, journalists and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence. They trust in good-faith negotiations and traditional diplomacy. Once the killings start, they assume that civilians who keep their head down will be left alone. They urge cease-fires and donate humanitarian aid."

This is an almost perfect description of how the United States has acted over the past two years as it has tried to come up with some kind of policy to end the Assad regime's brutal war on its own people in Syria.

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