UN Security Council divided over military force; Obama has ‘received options’ from U.S. military; UN confirms chemical weapons were used near Damascus;
Momentum appeared to build Wednesday for Western military action against Syria, with the U.S. and France saying they are in position for a strike, while the government in Damascus vowed to use all possible measures to repel it.
The prospect of a dramatic U.S.-led intervention into Syria’s civil war stemmed from the West’s assertion – still not endorsed by UN inspectors – that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s government was responsible for an alleged chemical attack on civilians outside Damascus on August 21 that the group Doctors Without Borders says killed 355 people. Assad denies the claim.
The Arab League also threw its weight behind calls for punitive action, blaming the Syrian government for the attack and calling for those responsible to be brought to justice.
Israel’s political-security cabinet convened on Wednesday morning to discuss a possible U.S. strike on Syria, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would respond with force if it came under attack from Syria or any other forces.
3:20 A.M. The UN Security Council’s five permanent members ended a meeting Wednesday fiercely divided over a British-proposed resolution to authorize the use of military force to punish Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, with Russia and China firmly opposed.
A tension-filled meeting ended with no indication of whether the resolution would ever be put to a Security Council vote. U.S. officials in Washington and the United Nations indicated the resolution appeared doomed and any action against Syria would have to occur without the backing of the Security Council. (AP)
1:10 A.M. Speaking to PBS NewsHour, U.S. President Obama has confirmed that he “has not made a decision,” regarding a military strike in Syria. Obama said that he has been given options from the military, and has had “extensive discussions with the national security team.”
Obama continued to say that the U.S. does not believe that the Syrian opposition possessed chemical weapons, and has concluded that the Syrian government indeed carried out the chemical attacks.
12:17 A.M. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday urged President Barack Obama to make the case personally to Congress and the American people for potential military action in Syria.
In a letter to Obama that was released to the media, Boehner said Obama must explain the legal basis for any use of force in Syria and the “intended effect of the potential military strikes.” (Reuters)
10:02 P.M. Britain believes that the UN Security Council should see findings from chemical weapons inspectors before backing any military action in Syria, according to a copy of the motion to be placed before the UK parliament released on Wednesday. “The United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken,” the motion, to be debated on Thursday, reads. (Reuters)
9:31 P.M. The U.S. State Department said that Russian opposition to United Nations Security Council action on the Syria conflict should not be allowed to shield the Syrian government. “We do not believe the Syrian regime should be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action on Syria at the UN and we will make our decision on appropriate action going forward,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters. (Reuters)
8:32 P.M. UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement on a British-proposed resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria. A diplomat said that Russia objected to the resolution and reiterated its opposition to international intervention in Syria. (AP)
7:28 P.M. A senior U.S. official said on Wednesday that the Obama administration is considering military options that include multi-day strikes on Syrian government targets in response to last week’s chemical weapons attack. (Reuters)
7:15 P.M. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are meeting informally to discuss the language of a draft resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria. (AP)
7:02 P.M. Syria’s UN envoy says asked UN chief Ban Ki-moon to have chemical experts immediately investigate three new alleged rebel attacks on the army. (Reuters)
5:15 P.M. A senior Israeli officer says that the likelihood of Israel being attacked as a result of an American strike on Syria is low. (Gili Cohen)
4:20 P.M. The Israeli cabinet approved the limited enlistment of IDF reserve forces amid U.S. preparations for a strike in Syria. The army plans on enlisting reserves for aerial defense and the Home Front Command. (Amos Harel and Barak Ravid)
3:44 P.M. UN Secretary General says inspectors need four days to conclude their investigation and time to analyze findings. (Reuters)
3:21 P.M. Foreign Ministry cancels conference of Israeli ambassadors that was supposed to take place Sunday in Jerusalem. A source in the Foreign Ministry said that the cancelation is part of emergency measures in light of preparations for a U.S. strike in Syria. (Barak Ravid)
3:11 P.M. Turkey sends extra aid workers trained to identify and decontaminate chemical weapons victims to its border with Syria to prepare for possible gas attacks, official says. (Reuters)
2:45 P.M. Foreign Ministry cancels a convention for Israeli ambassadors scheduled for Sunday in Jerusalem. A source says that the gathering was called off due to the tensions on the Syrian front ahead of a possible U.S. attack in the coming days. (Barak Ravid)
2:27 P.M. Jordan says any attack on Syria will not be launched from its soil. The kingdom’s information minister says Jordan prefers a “diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis.” (AP)
2:19 P.M. Russia says it’s still too early to talk about a UN Security Council response to the alleged chemical attack near Damascus before the UN inspectors deliver their report. (Reuters)
1:35 P.M. Germany urges Russia to support a British draft resolution at the UN Security Council condemning attacks by Assad and authorizing “necessary measures” to protect civilians. “We urge all members of the Security Council, in particular Russia, to seize this opportunity and contribute to a common stance by the global community against the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction in Syria,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. (Reuters)
1:16 P.M. UN special envoy to Syria Brahimi says evidence suggests that some kind of chemical substance was used in the alleged gas attack near Damascus that killed hundreds on August 21, but said any military action must have the approval of the UN Security Council. (AP)
1:13 P.M. Despite no clear instructions from Home Front Command, long queues are seen at gas mask distribution centers across Israel. (Gili Cohen)
12:29 P.M. Britain will put a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on Wednesday condemning attacks by Assad and authorizing ‘necessary measures’ to protect civilians from chemical weapons, Prime Minister David Cameron says. (Reuters)
11:54 A.M. United Nations inspectors should be given time to determine whether forces have used chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in The Hague. (Reuters)
11:41 A.M. UN team reaches rebel-held territory near Damascus to begin inspection (Reuters)
11:12 A.M. Russia evacuates its citizens from Syria, says an attack will further destabilize the region. (AP)
10:57 A.M. UN inspectors in Syria en route to alleged poison gas attack site (Reuters)
10:02 A.M. Russia tells UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi that attacking Syria would destabilize the region (Reuters)
10:40 A.M. Israel’s political-security cabinet convenes to discuss a possible U.S. strike on Syria. (Barak Ravid)
9:51 A.M. U.S. Defense Minister Chuck Hagel meets Asian defense leaders as West prepares military action against Syria. (AP)