U.S. plans $50MILLION A DAY no-fly zone in Syria after finding proof that government used chemical weapons against rebels
- U.S has proof President Assad’s regime’s used chemical weapons
- Obama’s previously said crossing the ‘red line’ that would trigger action
- No-fly zone would protect people from Syrian government aircraft
- An area stretching 25 miles into Syria could be enforced with planes
- The two-year conflict has now claimed the lives of 93,000 people
PUBLISHED: 18:17 EST, 13 June 2013 | UPDATED: 11:26 EST, 14 June 2013
The United States has conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against rebel forces and is now proposing a no-fly zone in the country.
The use of weapons such as the nerve agent sarin crosses what President Barack Obama has called a ‘red line’ that would trigger greater American involvement in the crisis.
In a telephone call with British Prime Minister David Cameron tonight, Obama will discuss their plan to warn Russian President and Syrian ally Vladimir Putin of the prospect of military intervention if he doesn’t back down on Syria.
The leaders are expected to warn Putin of the dangerous consequences of Russia’s supporting Syria at the G8 conference in Northern Ireland, which begins on Monday.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is now considering arming the opposition fighters and enforcing a no-fly zone that could cost an estimated $50 million a day.
Crisis: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in his office in the capital Damascus on June 13, 2013. The United States has conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against rebel forces and is now proposing a no-fly zone in the country
The proposal to arm rebel forces may rely on creating the no-fly zone that would protect opposition fighters and refugees from Syrian government aircraft.
Sources told the Wall Street Journal that it would dangerous to supply and train the rebels without a no-fly zone to ward off Assad’s forces.
‘Unless you have a good buffer zone inside Syria, you risk too much,’ a U.S. official told the paper.
Injured: A video posted on Facebook and YouTube appears to show victims of a Syrian regime assault on Aleppo foaming at the mouth
‘We’ve prepared for many contingencies in Syria,’ said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. ‘We are going to make decisions on further actions on our own timeline.’
However, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday that he had been told Obama was ‘going to provide arms to the rebels.’
The White House said the Assad regime had used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale multiple times in the last year.
Up to 150 people have been killed in those attacks, the White House said, constituting a small percentage of the 93,000 people killed in Syria over the last two years.
The Obama administration announced in April that it had ‘varying degrees of confidence’ that sarin had been used in Syria.
But they said at the time that they had not been able to determine who was responsible for deploying the gas.
The more conclusive findings announced Thursday were aided by evidence sent to the United States by France, which along with Britain, announced it had determined that Assad’s government had used chemical weapons in the two-year conflict.
Obama has said repeatedly that the use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’ and constitute a ‘game changer’ for U.S. policy on Syria, which until now has focused entirely on providing the opposition with nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.
The White House said Congress has been notified of the new U.S. chemical weapons determination, as have international allies.
Obama will discuss the assessments, along with broader problems in Syria, next week during the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.
Obama is also expected to press Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s most powerful backers, to drop his political and military support for the Syrian government.
‘We believe that Russia and all members of the international community should be concerned about the use of chemical weapons,’ Rhodes said.
The U.S. has so far provided the Syrian rebel army with rations and medical supplies.
In April, the administration made a decision in principle to expand its military support to the opposition to include defensive items like night vision goggles, body armor and armored vehicles. That step was announced by Secretary of State John Kerry.
The composition of the defensive military equipment is still being determined in consultation with the opposition military leadership and other nations that are supplying similar material.
The UK – along with France – has reported repeated small-scale incidents of apparent chemical weapon use by regime forces to the United Nations investigation team.
Both countries led a successful joint bid to lift an EU embargo on supplying arms to opposition forces although Prime Minister David Cameron stressed yesterday that no decision had been taken to arm the rebels.
He is due to hold talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin at Downing Street on Sunday as part of efforts to break the international deadlock.
The crisis will also be high on the agenda when they join other world leaders, including Mr Obama and French president Francois Hollande, at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on Monday.
Foreign Secretary William Hague discussed the crisis – which the United Nations now believes has cost at least 93,000 lives – with US counterpart John Kerry on Wednesday.
He said after those talks that the international community must be ‘prepared to do more’ to up the pressure on the regime.
Mr Cameron says lifting the embargo was designed to put pressure on the regime to attend planned peace talks in Geneva brokered by Russia and the United States.
VIDEO: US to aid Syrian opposition after confirming chemical weapons use
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