Early U.S. and European intelligence findings indicate that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime carried out a chemical strike near Damascus on Wednesday, probably with backing from senior leaders, Reuters reported.
Russia on Friday joined other nations calling for a U.N. team now in Syria to investigate the alleged assault that might have killed hundreds of people, the Associated Press reported.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has dispatched a top disarmament official to the Syrian capital to formally request access to the scene of the alleged attack, according to a Thursday release.
The claims “need to be investigated without delay,” his office said in a statement. Speaking on Friday, Ban said “it’s a matter of time when we will participate (in the Syrian incident),” the Xinhua News Agency reported. The U.N. chief was to meet on Friday with officials from the United Kingdom, and top envoys from the United States and Qatar also would participate in talks, British Foreign Minister William Hague said in comments reported by Reuters.
President Obama in an interview aired Friday told CNN that Washington officials “don’t expect cooperation” from officials in Bashar Assad’s government.”
Moscow, though, accused enemies of Bashar Assad’s government of refusing “to guarantee the safety and effective work of U.N. experts on [rebel] territory,” Reuters reported. The opposition in the country’s civil war “is directly preventing an objective investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria,” according to written comments released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition later said it would “ensure the safety of the U.N. team,” the wire service reported separately.
“It is critical that those inspectors get there within 48 hours,” spokesman Khaled Saleh said.
More than 30 nations have called for the U.N. investigation to expand its on-the-ground probe — launched on Monday to review past chemical attack claims — to include the latest allegations, USA Today reported. Syrian rebels have attributed 800 to 1,700 deaths to Wednesday’s incident.
Independent analyses appeared to be coalescing around a view that the event involved sarin or another nerve agent, the London Guardian reported. Neighboring governments and Western powers are expected within days to obtain materials taken from the site of the alleged attack, according to the newspaper.
In his remarks to CNN, Obama said a chemical strike “starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region.”
He added, though, that “if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it [and] do we have the coalition to make it work.”
The need for critical U.S. choices on Syria has grown more urgent, Obama indicated in the CNN interview. The Defense Department as of Thursday was revising options for possible air attacks against Syrian armed forces facilities and other sites controlled by Assad, the Wall Street Journal reported.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."