By Elise Labott
It was unusually positive language for a top U.S. official speaking about the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but there was Secretary of State John Kerry giving the Syrian leader a pat on the back.
Speaking to reporters in Bali on Monday, Kerry hailed the quick pace at which inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have been able to get on the ground in Syria and begin their work to destroy its vast chemical weapons arsenal, as called for in a recent U.N. Security Council resolution.
By Catherine E. Shoichet and Jamie Crawford
A new possibility for a diplomatic solution in the standoff between Syria and the United States surfaced unexpectedly Monday as the war-torn country said it supported a proposal to hand over control of its chemical weapons.
But a key question loomed: Is that a viable option or simply a stall tactic as President Bashar al-Assad's government tries to stave off U.S. military action?
"It's certainly a positive development when the Russians and Syrians both make gestures towards dealing with these chemical weapons," President Barack Obama told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday.
By Jamie Crawford
Russia urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to put his nation's chemical weapons stockpile under international control as part of an effort to head off a possible military strike from the United States.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said his country would urge Syria to take the action if it would avert a military response from the United States. There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian government.
Lavrov's comments came the same day Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to endorse a similar course of action.
Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," Kerry said during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done obviously."
The Russian ambassador to the United States said any use of American military force against war-wracked Syria could carry serious consequences and hoped such an outcome would not ruin already tense relations.
While things are difficult between Washington and Moscow, Sergey Kislyak said in Washington that ties have not plunged to Cold War depths – yet.
“They’re not in good shape,” Kislyak said at an appearance in Washington for the Center for the National Interest.
By Elise Labott
CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
An Israeli web site only has one question: Has the attack happened yet? The one-word answer: No. The joke in Israel is that everyone keeps turning to the site, which has more than 17,000 likes on Facebook, to see if the answer has changed to "yes."
An Israeli dental clinic has also gotten into the game with a full-page ad for dental implants. Under a picture of President Obama, the question: "Got teeth?"
As it tries to build international support for action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for its alleged chemical attack, the Obama administration must confront an increasing lack of confidence among its allies. While billed as an effort to strengthen U.S. resolve, diplomats say President Barack Obama's decision to seek authorization from Congress is playing out as weakness in a region concerned that Obama would show similar indecisiveness if faced with a nuclear Iran.
By CNN's Barbara Starr and Jennifer Rizzo
The U.S. military could execute a strike against Syria very quickly, if it's ordered to, according to Pentagon sources.
President Barack Obama is still debating a limited strike after Syrian regime forces allegedly unleashed a brutal chemical attack against civilians and rebel forces earlier this month, killing at least 1,429 people, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Before any missiles start flying, the president would issue an "execute" order for operations to begin.
Aaron David Miller, vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, says Obama apparently has chosen the middle option on Syria (between doing nothing and the McCain option of pushing for regime change). The result is one of the most widely telegraphed military assaults ever by Washington and a situation in which the president seems to be in a corner, forced to take action or risk being considered ineffective. It’s the least bad option, Miller says.FULL STORY
By Jim Acosta and Brianna Keilar
A senior administration official stressed U.S. President Barack Obama is on an “abbreviated timeline” for making a decision on whether to launch a military strike against Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons.
“We see this with some urgency,” the official said.
After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime was “undeniable,” the senior administration official said the United States no longer requires confirmation from United Nations weapons inspectors.
“This one is a lot easier to figure out,” the official said. “This is really obvious.” FULL POST
By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on Syria Monday left little doubt the United States would deliver a punishing response to Syria's use of chemical weapons, calling the facts "undeniable" and warning the regime of President Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable.
Laying out a moral case for eventual military intervention, Kerry called Assad's attacks against civilians "a moral obscenity" that "should shock the conscience of the world." What is happening on the ground in Syria, Kerry said, "is real and it is compelling" and demanded a response from the international community. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Indonesia Monday, said "if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification."
The United States is examining a variety of potential legal justifications for any type of military action. While three United Nations Security Council resolutions have failed to pass because of Russian veto power, officials say some in the administration believe it may be worth it to make the effort. But with Moscow already promising to declare any military intervention illegal, the United States and its allies would likely have to act without a U.N. mandate. FULL POST
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday, accusing him of soliciting help from Iran and its fighters on the ground in Syria as well as fighters from Hezbollah.
"A designated terrorist organization has now crossed over from Lebanon into Syria and is actively engaged in the fighting," Kerry said at a State Department press availability about the Syrian civil war.
Al-Assad, he said, is willing to use Scud missiles against civilians and noted an "extraordinary number" of people are trapped in the besieged rebel stronghold of Qusair near the Lebanese border.
"He will not allow humanitarian aid to go in until the military has finished what (it) intends to do," Kerry said.
"So I think the world is seeing the actions of a person who has lost touch with any reality except his own and is willing to wreak any kind of punishment on his own - the people of his country - simply so that he can maintain power," he said.