Is Syria concealing the full extent of the chemical weapons in its possession? A report published on Tuesday by CNN alleged that the US is currently examining new intelligence which may indicate that the Bashar al-Assad regime may not declare its chemical weapons arsenal in full, and may possess a hidden stockpile of chemical weapons past the conclusion of the efforts to destroy such weapons.
The report, which quoted several US officials, indicated that US intelligence agencies, the US Department of Defense, State Department and the White House are going over the intelligence, and an effort is currently underway to obtain more information so as to fully recognize the efforts being carried out by the Assad regime.
According to a US official quoted in the report, while the intelligence being examined is not conclusive at this point, “there are information threads that could shake our confidence - things have been done recently which indicate that Syria is not ready to see all of its chemical weapons destroyed.”
WASHINGTON — The White House asserted Sunday that a “common-sense test” rather than “irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence” makes the Syrian government responsible for a chemical weapons attack that President Barack Obama says demands a U.S. military response.
As part of a major push to win the backing of a divided Congress and skeptical American public, Obama’s top aide made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to press the case for “targeted, limited consequential action to deter and degrade” the capabilities of Syrian President Bashar Assad “to carry out these terrible attacks again.”
At the same time, chief of staff Denis McDonough acknowledged the risks that military action could drag the U.S. into the middle of a brutal civil war and endanger allies such as Israel with a retaliatory attack.
The U.S. is “planning for every contingency in that regard and we’ll be ready for that,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The U.S., citing intelligence reports, says sarin gas was used in the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus, and that 1,429 people died, including 426 children. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists, says it has so far only been able to confirm 502 dead.
The Syrian government denies responsibility, contending rebels were to blame.
OPPOSITION to the “dumb war” in Iraq helped win Barack Obama the White House and secured him a Nobel peace prize without trying. The president is now learning the loneliness of the war leader, as he prepares a reluctant America for military strikes on Syria, with—or, he hinted—without formal backing from Congress.
Mr Obama triggered rancorous debate in Washington after making a surprise announcement on August 31st that he wanted congressional approval for strikes against Bashar Assad’s regime, in response to nerve-agent attacks that left more than 1,000 dead. Though congressional support is far from guaranteed, and opinion polls show that Americans oppose air strikes on Syria (see chart), Mr Obama declared that action to prevent future uses of chemical weapons was necessary.
“I do think that we have to act,” the president said during a brief visit to Sweden on his way to a G20 summit in St Petersburg. If resolutions and condemnations were the only response to Mr Assad’s use of chemical weapons, he suggested, it would signal that international norms could be flouted “with impunity”.
It was a week of ironies. Mr Obama has been a reluctant warrior over Syria, insisting that American intervention risked doing more harm than good. He went to Congress to make his opponents take shared responsibility for any decision to strike in the Middle East, or to leave the Assad regime unpunished.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said again this morning that President Obama’s resolve on the debt ceiling is firm:
“What we need in our economy is some certainty. We don’t need another self-inflicted wound,” Lew said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “Congress should come back and they should act.”
….The president is “not going to be negotiating over the debt limit,” Lew told CNBC. “Congress has already authorized funding, committed us to make expenditures. We’re now in a place where the only question is, will we pay the bills that the United States has incurred?” Answering his own question, Lew stressed there can be no question about that.
As part their budget-reduction strategy, Republicans have been trying to repeal and defund the president’s health-care law. But Lew said the White House won’t accept any delay or defunding of Obamacare.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the use of chemical weapons in attacks on civilians in Syria last week was undeniable and that the Obama administration would hold the Syrian government accountable for a “moral obscenity” that had shocked the world’s conscience.
In some of the administration’s most strident language yet, Mr. Kerry accused the Syrian government of cynically seeking to cover up the use of the weapons, rejected its denial of responsibility for a “cowardly crime.”
Mr. Kerry’s remarks, in a prepared statement he read at the State Department, reinforced the administration’s toughening stance on the Syria conflict, which is now well into its third year, and he suggested that the White House, in consultation with America’s allies, was moving closer to a military response.
“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity,” Mr. Kerry said.
“Senators have reached a bipartisan deal to restore lower interest rates on student borrowers,” The Associated Press reports, citing “Republican and Democratic aides who insist on anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the ongoing negotiations by name.”
According to the wire service, “the breakthrough came Wednesday, one day after lawmakers huddled with President Barack Obama at the White House. Lawmakers are expected to vote as early as Thursday on the deal that would lower rates before students return to campus.”
NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell tweets that there is a “framework of rates fix deal in place. Senators still negotiating lots of complicated details in package.”
The White House issued an unequivocal veto threat of House GOP legislation to delay the individual mandate for a year, after the Obama administration decided to delay the less important employer mandate for one year.
The GOP’s plan is to hold a vote on legislation to authorize the employer mandate delay (which the administration believes is unnecessary) and follow it up immediately with a vote to also delay the individual mandate for a year.
“If the President were presented with H.R. 2667 and H.R. 2668, he would veto them,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
The GIF is too large to post here, click out to the link.
The White House finally responded to the most popular petition (or rather, five petitions) to ever appear on its website: A call to classify the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group. As is often the case, the Obama administration’s response is a bit underwhelming. The White House explains “the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups,” though the president did sign a law limiting demonstrations at military funerals, and agrees that such practices are “reprehensible.” That’s not the fiery rebuke the petitions’ 674,569 supporters were looking for, but as a consolation prize the White House provided this GIF that maps out where the group is most widely reviled.
“The American people don’t have a Big Brother who is snooping into their business,” he said, amplifying his answer to a question about the hunt for a national security leaker. “I’m confident of that. But I want to make sure everybody is confident of that.”
Wherever he goes, whatever else is on his agenda, Mr. Obama in recent weeks has made a point of reassuring Americans that he is not spying on them. His statements are part of a carefully orchestrated White House damage-control effort in response to revelations about surveillance programs that have unnerved many Americans and exposed him to criticism from the political left and right.
The strategy reflects the sensitivity of a president elected after assailing counterterrorism policies that he ultimately adopted in some form after taking office. With a blitz of statements, briefings, interviews, Twitter messages and selected disclosures, the White House has pushed back aggressively, arguing that his policies are both necessary to protect the nation against terrorists and yet more respectful of civil liberties and checks and balances than those initially enacted by President George W. Bush.
Mr. Thiessen, who now writes a column for The Post, has some understanding of the situation the White House finds itself in. When Mr. Bush’s counterterrorism policies were revealed by the news media, Mr. Thiessen wrote a speech for the president defending them while announcing that he would empty secret C.I.A. prisons. Still, he said Mr. Obama’s situation is more precarious than Mr. Bush’s was. “He’s got a different political dynamic,” Mr. Thiessen said. “The president has his own base up in arms while we had our base more reflexively behind us. And the opposition is more vocal now.”
Still wrestling with the weightiest decisions of its current session, the Supreme Court is likely to accept Monday what could be the most important case of its next one: a colossal power struggle between the White House and Congress over government appointments.
President Obama and Senate Republicans set the stage for the showdown during the past 2½ years as they fought over Obama’s proposed nominations to a little-known federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board. That battle is a microcosm of the broader war over the nomination and confirmation process — one that dates back over several presidencies.
The story line is simple: Obama’s nominees were blocked by Republicans, just as many of President George W. Bush’s choices were blocked by Democrats. So in January 2012 — with the Senate meeting every three days in pro-forma sessions but not conducting any business — Obama used the Constitution’s “recess appointments” clause to install them without Senate approval.