Senior administration official:  “This one is a lot easier to figure out”
August 26th, 2013
10:09 PM ET

Senior administration official: “This one is a lot easier to figure out”

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

As it weighs options and partners, U.S. mulls legal options
August 26th, 2013
09:49 PM ET

As it weighs options and partners, U.S. mulls legal options

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

Syria to allow inspectors to site of suspected chemical weapons attack
August 25th, 2013
11:01 AM ET

Syria to allow inspectors to site of suspected chemical weapons attack

By Frederik Pleitgen, Hamdi Alkhshali and Josh Levs, CNN

Syria will allow U.N. inspectors full access to any site of a purported chemical weapons attack, a top Syrian official told CNN on Sunday.

The agreement is effective immediately, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said.

And inspectors hope to begin their probe Monday at the suspected chemical attack site, the U.N. secretary-general's office said.

Full Story

August 24th, 2013
08:17 PM ET

Competing claims on chemical weapons use in Syria

By Frederik Pleitgen and David Simpson

As Western powers try to verify claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons this week in a northeastern suburb of Damascus, the Syrian government is accusing rebel forces of doing the same.

State-run television reported Saturday that Syrian armed forces had surrounded Jobar, the opposition-held district on the edge of Damascus that saw some of the 1,300 reported dead in Wednesday's early morning attack. Several of the soldiers were "suffocating" from exposure to gases as they entered the city, according to state TV.

"It is believed that the terrorists have used chemical weapons in the area," Syrian TV reporting, citing anonymous source. The government uses the term "terrorists" to describe rebel forces.

It showed video of a room containing gas masks and gas canisters that the Army said were discovered in a storage facility in Jobar. CNN could not independently confirm the veracity of the claims or the authenticity of the video.

Opposition leaders deny involvement in the attack, which they say killed hundreds near the capital.

August 22nd, 2013
06:51 PM ET

U.N., U.S. call for urgent probe of Syria chemical attack claim

(CNN) - The United Nations and the United States are calling for an immediate investigation of Syrian activists' claims that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons in an attack on civilians.

Anti-regime activist groups in Syria say more than 1,300 people were killed in the attack outside Damascus, many of them women and children. Video footage and witness reports appeared to bolster claims that chemical weapons were used.

President Barack Obama has directed the U.S. intelligence community to urgently gather additional information to try to assess whether chemical weapons were used Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday.

At this time, she said, the United States is unable to "conclusively determine" chemical weapons use, but is focused on trying to nail down the facts, along with its international partners.

Dempsey: Syria intervention is "act of war" that could cost billions
Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey
July 22nd, 2013
08:26 PM ET

Dempsey: Syria intervention is "act of war" that could cost billions

By Jamie Crawford

United States military involvement in Syria would likely cost billions of dollars and carry a range of risks for the forces involved, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said in a letter released Monday.

"I know that the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly," Dempsey wrote in the letter to Sen. Carl Levin,D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It is no less than an act of war."

Dempsey's letter was in response to a request by Levin and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to provide his assessments of possible scenarios for future involvement in the Syrian civil war.

But it also came with a warning for a military now in a second decade at war. FULL POST

All options on the table regarding Syria, US officials
April 30th, 2013
10:17 PM ET

All options on the table regarding Syria, US officials

By CNN Staff

All options remain on the table as the Obama administration considers what, if any, military action to take in Syria following the suspected use of chemical weapons there, U.S. officials tell CNN.

They say this includes the possibility of providing arms to rebels even though the administration has opposed this step and several caution that its resistance to doing so is unlikely to change.

So far, the United States has provided communications and other non-lethal aid to the rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a two-year civil war.


Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Security Brief • Syria
Israeli official: Syria using chemical weapons
Syrians search for survivors in the rubble of a building targeted by a missile in Aleppo.
April 23rd, 2013
09:24 AM ET

Israeli official: Syria using chemical weapons

The Syrian government is using chemical weapons against rebel forces, the head of the Israel Defense Forces' intelligence research departments said Tuesday.

"In all likelihood they used sarin gas," Brig. Gen. Itai Brun said Tuesday in a speech at a conference in Tel Aviv. This comes as a civil war between the government and rebels rages across Syria - which borders Israel.

Analysts believe the Syrian government may have one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world. The supply is believed to include sarin, mustard and VX gases, which are banned under international law. Syria has denied the allegation.

Reports have repeatedly surfaced that Syrian forces moved some of the chemical weapons inventories, possibly because of deteriorating security in the country, raising fears the stockpile could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-linked groups working with the opposition should Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government fall.


Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Syria
March 21st, 2013
05:36 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: US intel not seeing signs chemical weapons were used in Syria

By Barbara Starr

Initial U.S. intelligence suggests Syria did not use chemical weapons in a strike earlier this week, CNN has been told by U.S. officials.

The officials emphasized this is a preliminary conclusion and the investigation continues.

U.S. analysts are "leaning hard away" from the notion that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, a military official directly familiar with the preliminary analysis tells CNN.

There are "multiple indicators" for this emerging conclusion, a second official said.

That official told CNN, "there are strong indications now that chemical weapons were not used by the regime in recent days."


Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons
December 9th, 2012
05:55 PM ET

Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons

By Elise Labott

The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.

The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American.


Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Contractors • Syria
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