$imware.customButtonCode($destID)
September 5, 2013

US: Chemical attacks make Syria top security risk

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — For the first time in more than two years of a bloody civil war, President Barack Obama has declared Syria a national security threat that must be answered with a military strike — and in doing so he is warning Americans as much about the leaders of Iran and North Korea as about Bashar Assad.

click image to enlarge

In this photo taken Aug. 30, 2013, President Barack Obama pauses after answering questions about Syria from members of the media during his meeting with Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. In declaring Syria a national security threat, the Obama administration is warning Americans as much about the leaders of Iran and North Korea as about President Bashar Assad. And America’s credibility with those countries will be an immediate casualty if fails to respond to Syria now, administration officials say in making their case for U.S. missile strikes. It’s a connection that’s not immediately clear to most Americans _ especially after the White House refused to send military support earlier in the Syrian war. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

click image to enlarge

This Aug. 21, 2013, file image provided by by Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show several bodies being buried during a funeral in a suburb of Damascus, Syria. US officials say that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in an incident that killed at least 1,400 people last week. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, File)

Related headlines

America's credibility with those countries will be an immediate casualty if it stands down now on Syria, administration officials say in making their case for U.S. missile strikes.

Following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, the White House declared Syria's 2-year civil war a top risk to American interests. If the U.S. fails to respond, officials said this week, it could encourage other hostile governments to use or develop weapons of mass destruction without fear of being punished.

It's a connection that's not immediately clear to many Americans — especially after the White House refused to send military support earlier in the Syrian war. The recent chemical weapons attack killed 1,429 people, U.S. intelligence officials say. Other estimates are somewhat lower. The wider war has killed more than 100,000.

In House and Senate hearings this week designed to seek congressional approval to strike Assad 's government — probably with cruise missiles but not with ground troops — top administration officials pleaded with skeptical lawmakers to consider the risks of doing nothing.

"Iran is hoping you look the other way," Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Our inaction would surely give them a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention, if not to put it to the test. Hezbollah is hoping that isolationism will prevail. North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day."

"They are all listening for our silence," Kerry said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel raised the possibility that Assad's chemical weapons stockpile, considered one of the world's largest, could be seized by his allies, including the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. "We cannot afford for Hezbollah or any terrorist groups determined to strike the United States to have incentives to acquire or use these chemical weapons," Hagel told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Vali Nasr, a former senior official in Obama's State Department, said Syria's spiraling death toll, the rise of fighters in Syria associated with al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and pressure on neighboring nations from a flood of refugees have already threatened U.S. security interests for years.

"For a very long time we reduced Syria to just a humanitarian tragedy that, as bad as it was, was not a sufficient cause for American involvement," said Nasr, now dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "That meant we ignored all the other ways in which Syria was a national security threat. And for two years we tried to minimize the impact of Syria, and now all of a sudden the administration finds itself in the position of having to give sufficient urgency to Syria to justify action."

Over the past two years, the White House has mightily resisted intervening in Syria's civil war with U.S. military force. A year ago, Obama signaled the one "red line" exception would be the use of chemical weapons.

At the same time, the U.S. has used a heavy hand in years of negotiations with Iran as world powers try to persuade Tehran to significantly scale back its nuclear program, and seek to prevent its ability to build a bomb.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at KJonline.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


e-Edition

paper

The daily paper delivered to your computer or tablet!

Browse page by page, including stories and ads, with interactive features that make reading a breeze from wherever you are.

Already a print subscriber?
Connect your account for continued access. Not a subscriber? Become one.

Subscriptions start at only $8/month.

Go to the e-Edition


Fast Track

Blogs

Clearing the Bases - Friday
Pitching, pitching, pitching

More PPH Blogs

Maine's Top Jobs

MAINTENANCE TECHS Facilities Maintenance Company
FACULTY PHYSICIAN MAINE DARTMOUTH FAMILY MEDICINE RESIDENCY
RESTAURANT POSITIONS Anjon's Restaurant
ASSITANT MANAGER POSITION ACADIA VILLAGE RESORT
FINANCE DIRECTOR The Town of Falmouth, Maine
HEALTHCARE OPPORTUNITY Dartmouth College
CLASS A CDL LICENSED TRUCK DRIVER/ WORKER Normand Berube Builders, Inc.
2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR OPENINGS Falmouth (Maine) Public Schools
View all Top Jobs