President Barack Obama said Saturday afternoon he will ask Congress for authorization to use military force against Syria. The White House released a declassified intelligence report earlier Friday that concludes with “high confidence” that the Assad regime fired chemical weapons Aug. 21 that killed at least 1,429 people. French President Francois Hollande said he is open to participating in a military strike, even as the prospects of British involvement dim amid domestic opposition.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded for restraint before UN inspectors in Syria, who left Saturday, analyze evidence from the site of the alleged attack, even as the White House stands by the allegations. The UN Security Council failed to agree Wednesday on a British draft resolution authorizing the use of military force amid opposition from Russia and China. Check here for TIME’s full coverage of the approaching strike.
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8:20 p.m. | The following is the draft legislation regarding the Authorization for Use of United States Armed Forces in Syria, sent by the White House to House Speaker John Boehner.
5:24 p.m. | Reactions on Twitter to Obama’s announcement range from surprise to anger. See a full round-up here.
4:41 p.m. | Congressional approval is no guarantee, writes TIME’s Jay Newton-Small.
Obama has a tough lift in the coming weeks convincing Congress—and the American people—to support his decision. He’ll have some allies to help him: Surely the American Israel Public Affairs Committee will help whip a vote, since having a failed state on the Israeli border isn’t appealing and the next looming red line is Iran. But that doesn’t make victory a sure bet.
3:14 p.m. | Statement from the House GOP leadership:
Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress. We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised. In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th. This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.
3:04 p.m. |
2:35 p.m. | Watch Obama announce he will ask Congress for authorization to strike Syria:
2:31 p.m. | Obama makes the case for a strike on Syria even as he says he will ask Congress for authorization, TIME’s Zeke Miller reports.
2:18 p.m. | CNN’s Dana Bash reports:
1:11 p.m. | Watch Obama’s remarks on Syria live:
Update (1:59 p.m.):
Obama: “We cannot, we must not, turn a blind eye to what happened in Syria.”
Update (1:55 p.m.):
Obama: “I will seek authorization of the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”
Update (1:53 p.m.):
Obama: “I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.”
Update (1:47 p.m.):
1:09 p.m. | AP’s Josh Lederman reports:
12:59 | President Barack Obama will not announce an imminent or ongoing military operation when he addresses the nation on the Syria crisis Saturday afternoon, a White House official said.
At 12:12 p.m. Saturday, Obama Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted that the president would address the nation at 1:15 p.m. on Syria. A White House official said Obama would use his remarks to update the American people on his decisions about how to proceed following last week’s chemical weapons attack, which killed over 1,400 people.
12:16 p.m. | Dan Pfeiffer, assistant to the President, announces:
12:10 p.m. |
11:28 a.m. | CBS News White House Correspondent Major Garrett reports that the White House plans to hold a briefing with the Senate today, followed by a briefing with House Republicans and Democrats tomorrow.
11:21 a.m. |
11:10 p.m. | U.N. inspectors have left Damascus, MSNBC reports, possibly clearing the way for a U.S. military strike.
7:13 p.m. | Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told NBC News the United States can’t wait for the U.N. or its military allies to take action in Syria.
“When that line has been drawn and action needs to be taken, then the United States ultimately has to do that for the sake of the world and the sake of world peace,” said Panetta:
6:00 p.m. | U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Security Council members that it may take two weeks until a final analysis of the samples recovered by inspectors in Syria is ready, according to diplomats cited by Reuters. U.N. inspectors will leave Syria Saturday.
5:55 p.m. | Human rights groups are divided over their support for a military strike on Syria, TIME’s Alex Rogers reports. Find his breakdown of the views of some of the leading groups here.
4:58 p.m. | One Venezuelan congressman is prepared to oppose a US strike—from the Syrian battlefieds, Girish Gupta reports for TIME. Adel el-Zabayar was in Syria visiting his ill mother but is now planning to fight alongside the Syrian army. Gupta writes:
With the upcoming threat of military attack by the US, he has decided to stick around and fight. “Without doubt, I’ll have a weapon,” he told TIME by telephone early on Friday morning local time from a site he said was around 50 miles south of Damascus near the city of Sweida. “I’m on the battlefield now.” Zabayar has no formal weapons training and is currently carrying out more administrative tasks on the battlefield, he says, alongside government fighters.
Read the full story here.
4:35 | U.S. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have previously supported U.S. intervention in Syria’s two-year long civil war, released a statement calling for an immediate strike on Syria’s “air power, ballistic missiles, command and control, and other significant military targets.” Here is the full statement:
Secretary Kerry made a passionate and compelling case that established the Assad’s regime use of chemical weapons on August 21st. The only remaining question is how to respond to an attack that was a crime against humanity, a violation of international law, and contrary to our interests and values as a nation. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the response to this historic atrocity being contemplated by the Obama Administration will be equal to the gravity of the crime itself and the U.S. national security interests at stake in Syria.
The purpose of military action in Syria should not be to help the President save face. It should not be merely cosmetic. Instead, the goal of military action should be to shift the balance of power on the battlefield against Assad and his forces. The United States, together with our friends and allies, should take out Assad’s air power, ballistic missiles, command and control, and other significant military targets, and we should dramatically increase our efforts to train and arm moderate Syrian opposition forces. This can be done in a limited way, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform.
We urge President Obama to delay no further in taking military action in Syria that could finally change the momentum of this awful and destructive conflict.
3:42 p.m. | Watch President Barack Obama’s remarks on Syria from Friday afternoon:
2:28 p.m. |
2:08 p.m. | Here is the full declassified U.S. intelligence assessment, released Friday.
- The U.S. government has “high confidence” the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack. That’s one assessment level short of “confirmation.”
- The government says 1,429 people were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children.
- Assad is the “ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program,” the report concludes, and the regime may have turned to chemical weapons in this case due to “frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus.”
- Chemical weapons personnel were preparing an attack for at least three days prior, according to U.S. intelligence. One report says a “Syrian regime element” used a gas mask in preparation for the attack.
- The rockets were fired from regime-controlled areas, according to satellite reports.
1:46 p.m. | Here is the White House-released map of areas reportedly affected by the Aug. 21 chemical attacks. The government assessment, released Friday, says at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children.
1:27 p.m. | Secretary of State John Kerry said in a speech Friday “we know” Assad used chemical weapons in the attack Aug. 21, revealing intelligence reports that rockets were fired from Assad-held territory into opposition-controlled or contested areas and that members of the Syrian regime were told to to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks.
“Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack. And I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment,” Kerry said.
TIME’s Zeke Miller reports.
12:29 p.m. | Watch Secretary of State John Kerry speak live on the State Department website.
12:04 p.m. |
10:29 a.m. | CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer reports:
10:22 a.m. | French President Francois Hollande said he is still open to military intervention despite the waning liklihood that Britain will act, AP’s Elaine Ganley reports.
“The chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished,” Hollande said in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde published today.
Read the full article here.
10:04 a.m. |
9:05 p.m. ET | The White House issued the following statement on its Syria briefing with Congress:
Following on the President’s calls with House and Senate leaders over the last day, and building on extensive Cabinet Member outreach to Congress over the past week, this evening Senior Administration Officials held an unclassified phone call with congressional leaders and the Chairs and Ranking Members of national security committees to brief them on the Administration’s thinking and seek their input on the U.S. response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons near Damascus on August 21. The views of Congress are important to the President’s decision-making process, and we will continue to engage with Members as the President reaches a decision on the appropriate U.S. response to the Syrian government’s violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons. Senior Administration Officials participating in tonight’s call included National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld. The call lasted 90 minutes and 15 Members asked questions of the assembled Administration Officials.
The following members of Congress were on the call:
8:18 p.m. ET | President Obama hasn’t made a decision on the timing or scope of Syria action, The Associated Press reports, citing a congressman. A call between the White House and members of Congress ended in the past twenty minutes, though Obama wasn’t on the line.
Administration officials are said to have used to call to detail evidence showing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother was involved in recent chemical weapons attacks, according to NBC News.
6:58 p.m. ET | A senior administration official told CBS News the U.S. intelligence community’s report on Syria’s chemical weapons use would be made public Friday. Showing that report to the public is one of the White House’s final prerequisites before launching a strike.
6:39 p.m. ET | UK Secretary of Defense Philip Hammond expects military action against Syria to proceed even without British support, per Reuters.
6:16 p.m. ET | Doubling down on the earlier Times report, a senior U.S. official told CNN’s Jim Acosta that unilateral action may be necessary following British Parliament’s vote.
6:10 p.m. ET | British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that Britain would not participate in military action against Syria after he narrowly lost a vote on such action by 13 votes.
Less than an hour before that vote, The New York Times reported American President Barack Obama is “prepared to move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria” even without British help.
5:52 p.m. | A U.S.-led strike on Syria would raise new problems, writes Middle East Bureau Chief Aryn Baker:
Even if the strikes go as planned, they could still alienate allies, unleash another flood of refugees on already overburdened neighbors, and put American credibility on the line just when it needs it most.
Read her full take on how military action could make things worse here.
5:37 p.m. |
5:05 p.m. |
4:51 p.m. |
3:25 p.m. | The Syrian army is moving scud missiles and launchers from bases that may be targeted, Reuters reports.
2:52 p.m. |
1:54 p.m. |
1:39 p.m. | Damascus civilians–even those that oppose Assad–are skeptical of the motives behind a potential U.S. strike, the New York Times reports. Ben Hubbard writes:
Many Syrians view the prospect of strikes though a lens of deep distrust of the United States’ motives. Even many who hate Mr. Assad loathe the United States for backing Israel. Also coloring views are bitter memories of the American-led invasion of neighboring Iraq in 2003 and the ensuing civil war that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Syria.
Those legacies have left many in the opposition deeply reluctant to support American strikes…
Hubbard reports locals said U.S. involvement would exacerbate the violence and chaos:
“If the United States decides to hit, we are expecting more brutality and massacres from the regime all around Syria,” said Bassel Darwish, an activist in central Syria who said he had fled to the mountains. “We fear that the attacks might reach the headquarters of both the Free Army and government forces and the regime might fiercely attack the villages, killing more civilians.”
1:19 p.m. | Watch the White House press briefing live:
1:06 p.m. |
1:04 p.m. |
12:49 p.m. | “This is not where Obama wanted to be,” writes Michael Crowley in TIME’s cover story published today. Crowley writes that Obama’s next move will be a defining test of the president’s foreign policy vision.
From the start of his presidency, Obama sounded his call in speeches from Washington to Prague to Cairo, describing a transformed world order–”a revolutionary world” where “we can do improbable, sometimes impossible things…. But history, it has turned out, wasn’t interested.
Read the full article here.
12:27 p.m. |
11:50 a.m. | Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi tells CNN a strike could intensify anti-American sentiments:
11:19 a.m.|The International Red Cross says a military strike on Syria will worsen the humanitarian crisis there, making it even more difficult to deliver food and relief supplies. Magne Berth, head of the ICRC in Syria, told Reuters: “Further escalation will likely trigger more displacement and add to humanitarian needs, which are already immense.”
10:58 a.m. | British Prime Minister David Cameron called on members of parliament to support a strike on Syria in an emergency session Thursday, TIME’s Catherine Mayer reports. He said it is in Britain’s national interest to maintain “an international taboo against the use of chemical weapons on the battlefield.”
Cameron, who opened the debate, said regime change is not the goal and the government would not act before hearing from U.N. weapons inspectors.
Watch the live debate on the parliament’s website.
10:27 a.m. |
8:17 a.m. | More on Assad’s comments, via Syrian state television:
“The threats of direct aggression against Syria will only increase our commitment to our deep-rooted principles and the independent will of our people.”
8:08 a.m. | Not so fast, the AP reports:
AP sources: In spite of President Obama’s assertion, intelligence on weapons use in Syria is no “slam dunk.” http://t.co/sswaWFzjol -CJ
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 29, 2013
TIME’s Charlotte Alter has more.
8:01 a.m. | The British government has just released a statement on the legality of taking military action in Syria. According to the statement, “the legal basis for military action would be humanitarian intervention; the aim is to relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons.”
Read the full statement here.
7:30 a.m. | Per Britain’s ITV News:
— ITV News (@itvnews) August 29, 2013
6:48 a.m. | As the world waits for news on a possible strike on Syria, the Associated Press reports that scores of Israelis are preparing for potential fall out of a conflict. According the the AP: “Israeli police say thousands of Israelis are crowding gas-mask distribution facilities, readying for a potential conflict with Syria. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said officers were deployed to maintain order in the northern city of Haifa, where more than 5,000 people jostled in line as they waited for their protective kits on Thursday. A sports arena there was being used as a distribution center to accommodate the crowds.”
6:10 a.m. | Despite President Obama’s declaration on Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical attack, sources have told the Associated Press that the intelligence on the weapons is not a “slam dunk.”
A report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining that evidence against Syria is thick with caveats. It builds a case that Assad’s forces are most likely responsible while outlining gaps in the U.S. intelligence picture. Relevant congressional committees were to be briefed on that evidence by teleconference call on Thursday, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.
The complicated intelligence picture raises questions about the White House’s full-steam-ahead approach to the Aug. 21 attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb, with worries that the attack could be tied to al-Qaida-backed rebels later.
Those worries, of course, were also reported in Aryn Baker’s dispatch from yesterday.
5:48 a.m. | Speaking from Vienna on Thursday morning, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pleaded with world leaders to delay acting before the inspection team — scheduled to leave Syria on Saturday — could complete its investigation. Reports the Associated Press: “He says all opinions should be heard before anyone makes decisions on how to react to the alleged attacks.”
5:36 a.m. | The Guardian reports that the UK’s deployment of six RAF Typhoon jets to Cyprus to protect British sovereign bases, announced by the Ministry of Defence early Thursday, is not in preparation of a strike on Syria. A spokesperson for the MoD told the Guardian: “This is purely a prudent and precautionary measure to ensure the protection of UK interests and the defence of our Sovereign Base Areas at a time of heightened tension in the wider region. This is a movement of defensive assets operating in an air-to-air role only. They are not deploying to take part in any military action against Syria.”
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) August 29, 2013
4:58 a.m. | The full text of the government motion on Syria to be debated in the U.K. Parliament on Thursday including opposition amendment can be seen via the Guardian. Extract: “This House believes that 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. Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place.”
4:27 a.m. | Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird says his country may sit out possible military action against Syria, reports Anadolu. Baird said Canada is in agreement with its allies but the lack of military capabilities such as crude missiles in the region could preclude joining any operations.
4:04 a.m. | BBC suggest that the U.K. will bow to domestic pressure not to weigh into Syria conflict.
The BBC’s John Simpson says the US and France will go ahead with strikes on Syria early next week and the UK won’t. #r4today
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) August 29, 2013
3:11 a.m. | Iran’s state TV is reporting that President Hassan Rouhani has said Iran will apply all efforts to prevent military action against the Tehran-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, reports the Associated Press.
2:32 a.m. | Chinese state media has warned the West against strikes on Syria. In an editorial headed “No excuse for strikes,” the China Daily said on Thursday that the U.S. and its allies were “acting as judge, jury and executioner.”
1:53 a.m. | Video of protestors gathering outside British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Downing Street residence to oppose U.K. intervention in Syria.
1:05 a.m. | Fears of a possible U.S. strike against Syria’s regime over an alleged chemical weapons attack have rippled across the Middle East as about 6,000 Syrians flee to neighboring Lebanon in a 24-hour period and Israelis scramble for gas masks in case Damascus retaliates against them, reports the Associated Press.
12:48 a.m. | Hong Kong shares rebounded while mainland Chinese markets remained static on Thursday with analysts attributing the mixed results on abated fears of an imminent U.S.-led strike on Syra, reports Reuters. Wall Street also bounced overnight.
Aug. 28, 2013
8:58 p.m. | A White House official told TIME’s Zeke Miller the White House will brief Congressional leaders on Syria Thursday. The official also said the intelligence community’s classified assessment on Syria will be made available to Congress as soon as it’s finished. Unclassified details will be provided to the public this week, the official said.
This follows a report that members of congressional intelligence committees believe the White House has not been properly consulting them about its Syria plan.
7:00 p.m. | Domestic pressure has forced British Prime Minister David Cameron to delay his plans for a strike on Syria, Reuters reports. Cameron’s office is now saying the United Nations Security Council should be given time to see a report from U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria before authorizing military action.
The Prime Minister previously put a draft resolution before the Security Council authorizing “necessary measures to protect civilians.” The council has met to discuss that resolution but has not voted upon it.
6:10 p.m. | President Barack Obama said he has “not made a decision” about a military strike in an interview with PBS NewsHour. But he said “we have concluded” that the Syrian government carried out the chemical attacks. Watch the full interview:
5:31 p.m. | House Speaker John Boehner called in an open letter for President Barak Obama to articulate the objectives and legal justifications behind a military strike. Boehner, who said the administration’s outreach has “not reached the level of substantive consultation,” refrained from passing judgment on a potential strike but listed a series of questions he said the president must answer first.
I respectfully request that you, as our country’s commander-in-chief, personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy. In addition, it is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.
5:01 p.m. | The British parliament may hold off on a final vote authorizing the country’s participation in an air strike until next week amid strong domestic opposition, potentially delaying any allied action till at least Tuesday, the Guardian reports.
4:42 p.m. | Even if the build-up to a potential strike on a Middle East country feels awfully familiar, TIMES’s congressional correspondent Jay Newton-Small says not to jump to conclusions. One reason:
Remember Freedom Fries? France and much of Europe weren’t wild about going to war in Iraq. France is now spearheading the effort to oust Assad, although Germany and southern Europe remain skeptical of military involvement. Britain, of course, was as much on board with Iraq in 2003 as it is with Syria in 2013.
Here are five other ways “Syria 2013 Isn’t Iraq 2003.”
4:18 p.m. |
4:07 p.m. | Preparing for an air strike, most of Assad’s forces have been evacuated from command headquarters in Damascus, Reuters reports. Civilians in the capital, meanwhile, are stocking up on supplies and cash and struggling to avoid what they consider potential targets in a city dotted with military installations.
“I’m starting to see the fear in people’s eyes,” one resident told Reuters by phone. “People have been in the habit of stocking extra food since the conflict began, but now people are buying huge amounts of food and water.”
3:57 p.m. | New York Times reporter Liam Stack shared on Twitter earlier today an event calendar from Syrian state media’s English-language service:
3:45 p.m. | Time World Editor Bobby Gosh explains Obama’s options now that an air strike is, as he says, “almost certain.”
3:24 p.m. | Syria’s ambassador to the UN told reporters that he called on the international organization to investigate alleged chemical attacks against Syrian government soldiers.
The Washington Post reports that the Syrian government has asked that UN inspectors remain beyond their Sunday deadline to look into the allegations that chemical weapons were used against Syrian government forces.
3:11 p.m. | Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, told reporters his country is preparing for the “worst case scenario.”
2:15 p.m. | Foreign Policy’s John Reed combined data from the Nuclear Threat Initiative on the location of Syrian chemical weapons with the site of Syrian air bases to create a map of potential targets:
View Syrian chemical sites and air bases in a larger map
1:56 p.m. | How will the strike unfold? Time’s Mark Thompson lays out his prediction of the military’s plan of action. He compares—and contrasts—the attack with Operation Desert Fox, the 1998 bombing campaign against suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Thompson writes:
While both are rooted in weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. and its allies will not target them in Syria. Instead, they’ll go after the enablers — command posts, communications nodes, troops and delivery systems like missile launchers and artillery tubes — that Assad’s government needs to use them.
See the full story here.
1:24 p.m. | The enemy of my enemy of my enemy is my…huh? Time’s Middle East Bureau Chief Aryn Baker points out that the U.S. would be joining forces, so to speak, with al-Qaeda-linked groups if it launches a strike in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons:
“As an attack from Western countries seems imminent, so too does some kind of military response from the Islamist extremists… A Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda has vowed to ignite a “volcano of revenge” against the Syrian regime, which it blames for the apparent chemical weapons attacks near Damascus. The statement was first reported and translated by the Jihadist threat monitoring network SITE Intelligence Group late Tuesday night.”
See the full story here.