Connect with us

World

Phuket Gazette World News: US moves Navy, ponders Syria strike; Tripoli mosque blasts; Yosemite’s Rim on fire; Child dies in Bolivia prison war

Published

 on 

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

U.S. repositions naval forces, no decision on Syria strike
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The United States on Friday was repositioning naval forces in the Mediterranean to give President Barack Obama the option for an armed strike on Syria, although officials cautioned that Obama had made no decision on military action.

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. Navy would expand its presence in the Mediterranean to four destroyers from three.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, en route to Asia, said Obama had asked the Pentagon for options on Syria, where an apparent chemical weapons attack that killed as many as 1,000 civilians has upped pressure on Washington to respond.

“The Defense Department has responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” Hagel said. “And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options – whatever options the president might choose.” He did not elaborate.

The defense official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the USS Mahan, a destroyer armed with cruise missiles, had finished its deployment and was due to head back to its home base in Norfolk, Virginia. But the commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet has decided to keep the ship in the region, the defense official said.

The official stressed the Navy had received no orders to prepare for any military operations regarding Syria.

Obama’s senior national security advisers will convene at the White House this weekend to discuss U.S. options, including possible military action, against the Syrian government, another U.S. official said on Friday.

A senior State Department official said no final decisions were expected from the meeting, pending a further review of intelligence on the attack. Secretary of State John Kerry planned to attend via videoconference. The meeting was expected to take place on Saturday.

The U.S. president has been hesitant to intervene in Syria’s 2 1/2-year-old civil war, sentiments he repeated earlier on Friday.

But, in a development that could increase the pressure on Obama, American and European security sources said that U.S. and allied intelligence agencies had made a preliminary assessment that chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces in the attack near Damascus this week.

Seeking proof

The security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the assessment was preliminary and, at this stage, they were still seeking conclusive proof, which could take days, weeks or even longer to gather.

Opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad braved the front lines around Damascus to smuggle out tissue samples from victims of Wednesday’s mass poisoning,.

The Syrian government denies being responsible and has in the past accused rebels of using chemical weapons, an allegation that Western officials have dismissed.

In his first public comments since Wednesday’s attack in the Damascus suburbs, Obama called the incident a “big event of grave concern” and one that demanded U.S. attention, but said he was in no rush to get war-weary Americans “mired” in another Middle East conflict.

Members of Obama’s National Security Council, the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies met at the White House late on Thursday, but made no decisions on what to recommend, officials said.

One U.S. official acknowledged that the participants in Thursday’s White House meeting aired “differing viewpoints,” but rejected the notion that the administration, whose Syria policymaking has been marked by internal dissent in the past, was sharply divided on a response.

“It’s not like people were screaming at each other,” the official said.

International powers – including Russia, which has long shielded Assad from U.N. action – have urged Assad to cooperate with a U.N. inspection team that arrived on Sunday to pursue earlier allegations of chemical weapons attacks.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there was “some evidence” of chemical weapons use in the latest incident, but stopped short of saying an official conclusion was reached.

While the West accused Assad of a cover-up by preventing the U.N. team from visiting the scene, Moscow said the rebels were impeding an investigation.

The United Nations released data showing that a million children were among refugees forced to flee Syria, calling it a “shameful milestone.”

Crossing the Red Line

While the preliminary U.S. assessment was that Assad loyalists carried out Wednesday’s attack with high-level authorization, one U.S. source closely monitoring events in the region said it was also possible that a local commander decided on his own to use gas to clear the way for a ground assault.

“What we’ve seen indicates that this is clearly a big event, of grave concern,” Obama said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” program that aired on Friday.

Asked about his comment – made a year and a day before the toxic fumes hit sleeping residents of rebel-held Damascus suburbs – that chemical weapons would be a ‘red line’ for the United States, Obama expressed caution.

“If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it,” Obama said. “The notion that the U.S. can somehow solve what is a sectarian complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated.”

Obama’s caution contrasted with calls for action from NATO allies, including France, Britain and Turkey, where leaders saw little doubt Assad’s forces had staged pre-dawn missile strikes that rebels say killed between 500 and well over 1,000 people.

But two years into a civil war that has divided the Middle East along sectarian lines, a split between Western governments and Russia again illustrated the international deadlock that has thwarted outside efforts to halt the killing.

At Thursday’s White House meeting, which lasted more than three hours, Obama’s aides had a “robust discussion” of the diplomatic and military options available to the president, U.S. officials said.

Among the military options under consideration are targeted missile strikes on Syrian units believed responsible for chemical attacks or on Assad’s air force and ballistic missile sites, U.S. officials said. Such strikes could be launched from U.S. ships or combat aircraft capable of firing missiles from outside Syrian airspace, thereby avoiding Syrian air defenses.

No boots on the ground

Kerry, who took part in Thursday’s meeting by secure video link, advocated the use of air strikes in White House meetings in early June preceding an announcement of military aid to the rebels, a person familiar with the talks said. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey argued that such a mission would be complex and costly.

The White House on Friday reiterated Obama’s position that he did not intend to put “boots on the ground” in Syria, and an administration official said Thursday’s meeting also steered clear of the idea of enforcing a “no-fly” zone there.

Another possibility would be to authorize sending heavier U.S. weaponry, such as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rockets, to the rebels in addition to lighter arms approved in June. But even those limited supplies have yet to start flowing to the rebels.

The top Democrat on the House of Represent

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

World11 hours ago

Kanye West’s “White Lives Matter” shirt at Paris Fashion Week

Thailand12 hours ago

Tangmo defendant repays vow with 5-metre Ultraman figure

Bangkok12 hours ago

Bangkok asks companies to let employees work from home until October 7

Thailand13 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Prime minister’s achievements since coming back to the office

Best of13 hours ago

Revealed: the best rooftop bars in the world

Thailand13 hours ago

Father & 2 year old son shot in Chiang Mai

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Pattaya13 hours ago

Officials predict over 100,000 people at Pattaya International Fireworks Festival

Thailand13 hours ago

Six-legged golden frog brings good fortune in northern Thailand

Tourism13 hours ago

British Embassy Bangkok to hold a conference on tourism safety and security

Thailand13 hours ago

Mother seeks justice after a monk slapped her son

Expats14 hours ago

Bangkok ranked one of top 5 expat cities

Thailand14 hours ago

Woman abandons home after police ignore four burglaries

Thailand14 hours ago

VIDEO: Brave citizens save delivery driver swept away by floods in northeast Thailand

Chiang Mai14 hours ago

Chiang Mai wakes up to a flooded city district

World15 hours ago

Japanese warned to take cover over North Korea missile test

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending