Tags: obama | kerry | syria | assad

While Administration Talks Air Stikes, Assad Prepares for Worst

By    |   Saturday, 31 August 2013 12:51 PM

While the United States government debates whether to order military strikes against the Syrian government in the wake of chemical weapons attacks on dissidents, Syrian President Bassar Assad's regime has been using the extra time to move arms and troops away from possible target sites, opposition activists claim.

"All this babbling in the newspapers and the media is just giving time for the regime," Abu Hussein, a rebel coordinator in Damascus told The Financial Times.

On Saturday President Barack Obama said that any attack on Syria will be limited in scope and will only come after a debate of the people's representatives in both houses of Congress.

Meanwhile in Syria, elite troops have been moving from their bases to a local school in recent days, a businessman in Damascus said.

"It's not even a secret," he said. "You see them in the night. They light up the school."

Related: Some Questions About Kerry's Assertions

Activists have been compiling lists of schools where pro-Assad forces are moving, according to Reuters, including many in districts where top army and intelligence officers live.

The Obama administration and its delay in taking action also came under fire on the homefront Friday, when Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain slammed President Barack Obama's air strikes plans as being "cosmetic" and said the United States' failure to intervene in Syria is "shameful."

McCain, in an interview with The Tonight Show's host Jay Leno, repeated a call fo for Washington to arm the Syrian rebel Free Syria Army, reports NBC News, in in its fight against the Assad regime.

And while there is little public appetite, doing nothing is worse, McCain said.

“I’m sure that all Americans have seen these horrible pictures of dead kids, children lined up, so then the question is ‘What do we do?’" said McCain. "The president apparently wants to have a kind of a cosmetic strike, launch a few missiles and then say ‘Well, we responded.’ This is the same president that, two years ago, said Bashar Assad had to go."

Syrian activist Moaz al-Shami said that if schools are hit, the regime can "accuse the United States of indiscriminate bombing and targeting civilians,” activist Moaz al-Shami said.
One woman said that security forces are in the basement of the apartment bloc where she lives.

"Imagine if you are living somewhere for years and 60 gunmen you don't know suddenly barge into your building and live there," she said.

U.S. intervention could mark a turning point in the Syrian conflict, with the head of the exiled opposition's main umbrella group, Ahmad Jarba, saying friday that strikes could "paralyse a large part of the regime and raise morale”.

But rebels on the ground are pessimistic whether a U.S. strike will take place.

"Any sane person will know that the Americans are just showing their muscles because they were so embarrassed after the chemical attack,” one of the fighters said. "Plus they have declared [that] it is not to make the regime fall but to make them behave.”

McCain Friday night said it is an "everlasting shame" that not one single weapon has reached the opposition.

The one-time presidential nominee said that if he was the president, he'd "crater the runways, the six airfields that Bashar Assad uses. I’d prevent him from using his air power.
I would get the weapons to the people who are fighting and dying as we speak, and I would probably get a safe zone… you could do that in one day and you would not put a single American in any danger because you could do it with standoff weapons.”

But limited military strikes could result in Assad saying that he stood up to the Americans, said McCain.

Related: McCain Calls Leaks on Possible Syria Strike 'Crazy'

“I know Americans are war-weary… but I believe that we can prevail without American lives in danger,” he added.

Earlier this week, McCain ridiculed leaks that threatened imminent strikes in Syria.

"When strikes are going to take place, what's going to be used — If I were [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, I think I would declare tomorrow a snow day and keep everybody from work."

McCain said the president should identify exactly what the U.S. policy is on Syria, and what Americans and people in the region should expect an attack on the country to achieve.

Related: Rand Paul Says Obama Would Use Strikes to 'Save Face'

Meanwhile, Friday night, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul urged the White House to stand down  until Obama consults with Congress, saying he fears the president is planning a limited strike on Syria to "save face."

"I would ask Congress to come together and we would debate whether it's in our national security interest to be involved," the Republican told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Friday.

"I think it's horrific when civilians are killed. But civilians have been killed on both sides of this war," said Paul, who is widely considered to be a potential presidential candidate in 2016. "Horrific things have happened. There have been images of Islamic rebels eating the hearts of their opponents, so really I don’t think there’s a lot of good on both sides of this war."

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While the United States government debates whether to order military strikes against the Syrian government in the wake of chemical weapons attacks on dissidents, Syrian President Bassar Assad's regime has been using the extra time to move arms and troops away from possible targets.
Saturday, 31 August 2013 12:51 PM
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