Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama: Strikes ‘absolutely’ on hold if Syria quits chemical arms

    President Barack Obama said Monday that he will “absolutely” hold off on striking Syria if President Bashar Assad puts his chemical weapons arsenals under international control in line with a Russia-backed proposal.

    In a series of six television interviews, Obama also said he was not “confident” of getting congressional authorization to use force and had not decided whether to go ahead with attacking Syria if he doesn’t. But he warned that “the U.S. does not do pinpricks.”

    The president’s unprecedented public relations blitz came as public opinion polls showed that a solid majority of Americans oppose going to war with Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Assad’s forces on Aug. 21. The United States says it is sure the regime carried out that assault and that it left about 1,400 dead, including several hundred children.

    In addition to interviews with ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and PBS, Obama was to deliver a prime-time address to the nation on Tuesday night.

    On ABC, Obama

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  • Kerry vows ‘unbelievably small’ strike on Syria

    Secretary of State John Kerry, who has implicitly compared Syrian President Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler, said on Monday that the United States aims to carry out an “unbelievably small” strike at Assad’s forces.

    “We will be able to hold Bashar Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war,” Kerry said at a press conference in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

    “That is exactly what we’re talking about doing — unbelievably small, limited kind of effort,” Kerry said.

    And the top U.S. diplomat got his wires crossed on another American military operation, saying that then-President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 strike on Tripoli aimed to “send a message” to Moammar Gadhafi for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. But that attack occurred in 1988.

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  • Hillary Clinton: Russia’s Syria offer could be ‘important step’

    Breaking her recent silence on Syria, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on Monday that Russia’s proposal to put Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal under international control could be “an important step” but warned that it cannot be “another excuse for delay or obstruction.”

    “The Assad regime’s inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order and therefore it demands a strong response from the international community led by the United States,“ Clinton said.

    Clinton, speaking at a White House forum on battling illegal trafficking in wildlife, said she had just come from a meeting with President Barack Obama. Her remarks were her first since Syria's alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on Assad's opposition.

    “If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control,” as proposed by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia, she said, “that would be an

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  • White House dismisses Assad retaliation threat

    The White House on Monday shrugged off Syrian President Bashar Assad’s thinly veiled threat of retaliation if the United States goes ahead with military strikes against his country.

    Assad told CBS news that there will be “repercussions” for any American attack, ominously warning “you should expect everything.”

    Asked about those comments, Deputy U.S. National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told Yahoo News “it’s not in his interest to escalate with the United States, because that only invites greater risk to him.”

    But what about the 1988 Lockerbie bombing? Agents of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi were convicted of that attack, which came not quite three years after American warplanes struck Tripoli. And Syria has been a regular on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1979. Is that a concern?

    “We’re prepared for every contingency,” Rhodes replied, before repeating: “It’s not in his interest to escalate. That would only invite greater risk for him.”

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  • Obama uses secure White House bunker to fight Obamacare battle

    On Aug. 21, the day of Syria’s alleged chemical weapons attack, President Barack Obama called senior aides together into the White House’s secure, high-tech national security Situation Room to discuss … Obamacare.

    The White House released an official photograph of the meeting, which had been scheduled before the apparent massacre, on its Flickr stream. It shows the president at the head of the table in the basement nerve center’s main conference room, apparently addressing officials on various video-conference screens.

    That Aug. 21 meeting highlights how the administration has been using a secure facility originally designed to manage the government response to natural disasters or terrorist attacks, or oversee military operations, for purposes unrelated to national security.

    Obama’s days since then have been consumed with plotting the American response to Syrian strongman Bashar Assad’s actions, with a death toll Washington has set at about 1,400 civilians. Several of the president's

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  • Obama to make case for Syria strikes in prime-time speech Tuesday, won't say if he'll act without Congress' OK

    President Barack Obama will take his case for military strikes on Syria on Tuesday night to the American people in a prime-time address — but refused to say whether he'll act if he doesn't get the congressional go-ahead.

    "I will make the best case that I can to the American people as well as to the international community to take necessary and appropriate action," Obama said on Friday in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the G-20 summit.

    The president was asked multiple times what he would do if his fight to get Congress on board fails.

    Each time, he declined a direct answer.

    "Right now I am trying to get as much support as I can from Congress," he said.

     The questions came after deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken indicated on NPR that the answer is likely no.

    “The president, of course, has the authority to act. But it’s neither his desire, nor his intention, to use that authority absent Congress backing him,” Blinken said.

    Blinken’s comments lent weight to a New York Times report

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  • Obama leading aggressive Congress courting on Syria, White House says

    President Barack Obama's outreach to wary lawmakers on Syria did not stop at the water’s edge, the White House let it be known on Thursday as he met in Russia with world leaders. And Vice President Joe Biden briefed a small group of Senators and Representatives in the White House's "Situation Room."

    In all, the White House's aggressive courtship has reached more than one in three members of Congress, which could vote as early as next week on whether to give its assent to his plan for military strikes. Congressional vote-counters say defeat is a very real possibility.

    The White House declined to identify the lawmakers Biden briefed, but his official Twitter account posted a picture that appeared to show Democratic Senators Al Franken of Minnesota, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, as well as Democratic Representatives Joe

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  • Obama: 'I didn't set a red line' on Syria

    Recasting his role in setting a “red line” on Syria, President Barack Obama insisted on Wednesday that Congress and the world will lose credibility if Bashar Assad’s alleged chemical weapons massacre goes unpunished.

    “My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’ credibility is on the line,” Obama said during a visit to Stockholm, Sweden.

    “I do have to ask people, well, if, in fact, you’re outraged by the slaughter of innocent people, what are you doing about it?” Obama asked. “The moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.”

    The president rejected any notion that he needs to use military force against Syria in order to preserve his personal standing in the world after calling a chemical weapons attack a “red line” in an Aug. 20, 2012, press conference.

    “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line,” he insisted. “The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world’s

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  • Kerry opens door to U.S. ground troops in Syria

    Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door Tuesday to sending American troops into Syria if Bashar Assad’s regime collapses and al-Qaida-linked extremist groups stand to get their hands on his chemical weapons.

    “In the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interest of our allies — and all of us, the British, the French and others to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements,” Kerry told lawmakers, “I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country.”

    Prodded on the issue by Sen. Bob Corker, R.-Tenn., who warned that Congress would work to ensure that President Barack Obama does not use ground troops in response to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack, Kerry backpedaled furiously.

    “I don’t want anything coming

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  • Pelosi grandson opposes U.S. strikes in Syria

    If congressional skeptics of going to war with Syria are even half as wary as House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s 5-year-old grandson, President Barack Obama’s push for lawmakers to approve military strikes will be an uphill fight.

    Pelosi, speaking in the White House driveway after talks with Obama and other top lawmakers on Tuesday, described the child’s skepticism to reporters.

    “My 5-year-old grandson, as I was leaving San Francisco yesterday, he said to me ‘Mimi’ — that’s my name — ‘Mimi, war with Syria? Are you yes war with Syria? No war with Syria?’” she said.

    “You know he’s 5 years old, and war, he’s saying ‘war,’ I mean we’re not talking about war, we’re talking about an action,” she said.

    “’Yes war with Syria, no war with Syria?’ I said, ‘Well what do you think?’ He said, ‘I think no war,’” she related.

    “I said, ‘Well, I generally agree with that. But you know they’ve killed hundreds of children there. They’ve killed hundreds of children,’” she said.

    “And he said —

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