US Prepares For Possible Strike on Syria

The team of UN inspectors that collected samples from the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria arrived in the Netherlands today, where their evidence is now being analyzed in labs. At a UN briefing Saturday afternoon in New York, Martin Nesirky, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, neglected to offer a timeline for those results. The news comes as President Obama is set to speak to the American public about the conflict in Syria today. Obama announced last night that the U.S. was considering “limited, narrow” military action against Syria in reaction to the country’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21.


  • UN: No timeline for release of investigation results


    ABC News' Ben Waldron (@BenWaldron7) reports from UN headquarters in New York:

    Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon met earlier today with Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who just returned from Damascus. Highlights from the Secretary-General's spokesperson's briefing this afternoon: 

    • There is no timeframe for the release of the UN inspectors’ report.  The team in the Netherlands will spend all day collating samples and other evidence prior to testing it in European laboratories. The Secretary-General has requested the lab testing be expedited.
    • The UN will not expand its current mandate in order to determine accountability for the attacks, such a mandate would need to be approved by the Security Council. 
    • The Secretary-General has not spoken with President Obama today regarding any possible military intervention in Syria, but stressed there is no military solution to the problem and that the UN charter should be respected.


  • President Obama to speak about Syria at 1:15 p.m. ET


    Daniel Pfeiffer tweets from his official account that President Barack Obama will speak at 1:15p.m. ET in the Rose Garden. However, it's now 1:50pm ET and we're still waiting. Pfeiffer is the Assistant to the President of the United States and Senior Advisor to the President for Strategy and Communications. 


  • President Obama enters the Rose Garden and says intelligence proves Assad used weapons.
  • "After careful deliberation I have decided the United States should take military action against Syrian targets," says President Obama.
  • Obama says decision to attack is not "time sensitive... It will be effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now."
  • President Obama say says he will first seek Congressional approval before ordering Syrian attack.
    "I will seek authorization from the American people's representatives in Congress," he said.
  • "We should have this debate. The issues are too big for business as usual," says President Obama.
  • "I know well we are weary of war," Obama tells American people.
  • "Our security and values demand we cannot turn away... I'm ready to act in the face of this outrage," President Obama says.
  • President concludes address. Here's the gist: President Obama is set on attacking Syria. He believes it is in the interest of US national security and the credibility of the global system. However, before striking, he will seek Congressional approval.
  • Syrian State TV takes Obama's speech live 


    ABC News' Middle East Correspondent Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) reports Syrian State TV broadcast President Obama's speech live:

    Credit: Syrian State TV  
    by Molly.Hunter



  • View from Damascus 


    After Syrian State TV broadcast Obama's speech in its entirety, a Syrian military researcher joined the show to tell viewers that U.S. military action will not be limited and will be wide-reaching.


    Following the military researcher, a Syrian journalist reported from a crowded Damascus cafe. He said the scene was evidence that daily life continued in the capital despite threats from the West.


    Reacting to Obama's speech, most interviewed said they were not scared by the U.S. and trusted President Bashar al-Assad and his army to protect the country. 


    Via ABC News' Rhana Natour.

  • The BBC's former Damascus correspondent, Lina Sinjab (@BBCLinaSinjab) has spoken with a few Syrians following Obama's speech:



  • Initial Israeli Reaction


    A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells ABC News' Matt Gutman (@MattGutmanABC) in Haifa, Israel:

    “We have no comment, not on the record, not off and not on background, and frankly have not said much throughout.”

  • Syrian opposition disappointed possible US strike delayed


    As could be expected, the Syrian opposition is furious that the U.S. has delayed military action, writes ABC News' Middle East Correspondent Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA). 

    ABC News' fixer in northern Syria reports that commanders are now saying Obama is just like UK Prime Minister David Cameron. They doubt Obama will do anything now. Just more U.S. talk, they say, same old stories. In short, they'll believe it, when they see it.

    Meanwhile, following Obama's speech Col. Abdulbasit Sa'ad al-Dein, a Free Syrian Army leader based in Aleppo told USA Today:

    "Military intervention is in the interest of the Syrian people - we need this to solve the Syrian crisis. We need direct strikes on significant regime targets such as military installations ... to save civilian lives." 

  • Following Obama's speech, artillery resumes in Damascus 


    Moments after Obama finished speaking, three journalists in Damascus reported heavy regime artillery:




  • UK leaders applaud Obama's speech


    After this week's stunning defeat in the House of Commons, it's not terribly surprising there's sympathy from across the pond. British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague both took to Twitter following Obama's speech:



  • Obama spoke with French President right before speech


    According to the White House pool report, President Obama's scheduled 1:15p.m. ET appearance was delayed while he was on the phone in the Oval Office. We have now learned that French President Francois Hollande was on the other end of the line. 

    The White House provided a readout of the call:

    by Molly.Hunter

    Earlier this week, France hinted that it might join forces with the United States to attack the Syrian regime. Hollande told Le Monde on Friday that he supported "firm" punitive action against Assad's regime.

    "Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation," Hollande told the French newspaper. "That is valid for Britain as it is for France." The night before, Britain's House of Commons voted down a motion authorizing any military action in Syria.


    Hollande does not need parliamentary approval to go to war but intervention is unpopular with the French public. According to a new poll published in Le Parisien, 64 percent of French are "hostile" to the proposed military intervention and 58 percent do not trust Hollande to lead such an operation.


  • G20 just got more interesting


    ABC News' Devin Dwyer (@DevinDwyer) reminds us that the G20 is coming up next week, and it just got a lot more interesting.

    When President Obama said today that he will deliver his message to the world and call on allies to back him publicly, he'll get that chance next week. Obama said he'll put others on the spot to "stand publicly" and affirm that the use of chemical weapons is "not just investigated but confronted."

    It promises to be a dramatic summit with potential for the U.S. to shore up some international support for military action in Syria. 

    From Moscow, ABC News' Kirit Radia (@KiritRadia_ABC) writes that Russian President Putin seems game for a showdown. Putin said today he thinks the G20 summit, which Russia will host next week in St Petersburg, “is a good forum for discussing the Syria problem, so why not take advantage of this?” Get your popcorn ready. 
  • Fireside chat with POTUS: President tells team not striking #Syria now, but seeing Congressional approval pic.twitter.com/bcYIdA5SFP

  • That's a wrap, US strike on hold. For now.


    At this hour, the sword of Damocles will dangle over Damascus a while longer, after President Obama announced today that he would seek Congressional approval before launching a military strike on Syria.

    We awoke this morning to news that the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors were safely out of the country. When they crossed that border into neighboring Lebanon, the clock effectively started ticking down to what many expected to be an imminent U.S. strike. 

    But after a surprise u-turn by Obama, we may not be looking at a strike for at least another 10 days. If at all.

    The U.S. and its allies have been debating military action against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons that killed nearly 1,500 people, by the U.S.'s count, in a Damascus suburb last week.

    "After careful deliberation, I've decided that the Unites States should take military action against Syrian regime targets," Obama said today in the Rose Garden.


    The president said he hopes Congress will debate and vote on a U.S. strike when they return from their summer recess on Sept. 9. He did not put a timetable on the possible attack, adding that military action will be "effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now."


    But as unlikely as it seems for Obama to pursue military action against Syria without Congressional approval, ABC News' Michael Falcone (@MichaelPFalcone) doesn't rule it out:

    The president’s own words yesterday and today, his expressions of outrage (“What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”) and his clear declaration that “after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets” it appears almost as extraordinary that the president would let Congress dictate a different response if they do not give him the green light for a strike.


    Signing off for the night. Should be a fascinating week, in the words of former Obama Senior Advisor, David Axelrod (@DavidAxelrod):


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