Live: Obama gets top Congress support for Syria intervention

Russian radar detected two ballistic 'objects' that were fired towards the eastern Mediterranean from the central part of the sea on Tuesday, state-run news agency RIA quoted the Defence Ministry as saying.

Ayeshea Perera September 03, 2013 22:00:51 IST
Live: Obama gets top Congress support for Syria intervention

UN chief  US attack to punish alleged Syria chemical weapons attack could unleash more turmoil.

10.oo pm: Obama gets top Congressional support for military strike at Syria

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner emerged from a White House meeting with Obama and other top lawmakers and said the U.S. must respond to Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons. Boehner said only the U.S. has the capability to stop Assad and warn others around the world that such actions will not be tolerated.

House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor also said he would support Obama's call for military action against Syria.

Obama also won conditional support Monday from two of his fiercest foreign policy critics, Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

McCain said Tuesday he is prepared to vote for the authorization that Obama seeks, but he told NBC he wouldn't back a resolution that fails to change the battlefield equation, where Assad still has the upper hand.

Boehner's support is key, but opposition Republicans in Congress do not speak with one voice.

And after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, polls show most Americans opposed to any new military action overseas.

Some lawmakers say Obama still hasn't presented good evidence that Assad's forces were responsible for the Aug. 21 attack. Others say he hasn't explained why intervening is in America's interest.

8.40 pm: US was aware of preplanned tests, didn't know they were planned for Tuesday

U.S. officials told Fox News that the missile launch was a pre-planned test and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency may have played a role, but senior Pentagon leadership was unaware of plans to test part of the missile defense system on Tuesday.

The officials added that only one missile was fired into the Mediterranean.

Arrow designer Uzi Rabin told Reuters that tests of the system are usually planned "long in advance" and go unnoticed. "What apparently made the difference today is the high state of tension over Syria and Russia's unusual vigilance," he said.

Pentagon press secretary George Little, in a statement, acknowledged a U.S. role in the test, which he said was "long planned to help evaluate the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system's ability to detect, track, and communicate information about a simulated threat to Israel."

The Pentagon statement described the U.S. role in the test as providing "technical assistance and support" to Israel and "had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack."

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his country's missile defense systems a "wall of iron," according to Reuters.

"These things give us the power to protect ourselves, and anyone who considers harming us would do best not to," he said during a speech.

7.40 pm: Obama says he is "confident" about passing resolution for military intervention in Syria

President Barack Obama says he is confident he'll be able to work with Congress to pass a resolution authorizing military intervention in Syria.

The president indicated to reporters during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House Tuesday that he's open to changes to his request for congressional authorization for strikes. He said he's serious about consulting with Congress, as long as the resolution sends a clear message to Syrian President Bashar Assad and hampers his ability to use chemical weapons.

Obama said he wants the American people to know, quote, "This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan." He said action in Syria will be limited and proportional.

The meeting in the White House Cabinet room was attended by congressional leaders from both parties in the House and Senate.

Obama yesterday appeared to have won the approval of one of his most enthusiastic critics, senator Jon McCain. Senator John McCain said Monday that he would back a limited strike if the president did more to arm the Syrian rebels and the attack was punishing enough to weaken the Syrian military.

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner has said he'll support President Obama's request for authorization to use military force against Syria.

6.20 pm: Israel's missile testings trigger alerts across the region

Israel's firing of test missiles over the Mediterranean has triggered alerts across the region which is already on edge in anticipation of Barack Obama's plans to ask for Congressional permission to conduct military strikes against Syria.

A Syrian source told Lebanese television that nothing had been detected by its early warning system.

"Israel has redeployed most of its anti-missile systems to the north of the country over the past week amid fears that the Syrian regime could launch attacks on its neighbour – with whom it is still technically at war – following US strikes," says a Guardian report.

In another confirmation, NBC news reports that there was no direct involvement by US military forces in today's Israeli anti-missile test.

6.00 pm: Binyamin Netanyahu's spokesperson confirms reports of missile testing

Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's spokesperson has confirmed the reports of the missile testing.

ITV's Bill Neely, who is currently in Damascus, speculates on the possible purposes of the test:

5.30: 'Sparrow' missile was successfully tested and detected by anti-missile system, says Israel

According to reports, the missile launched was a 'Sparrow missile.' The Sparrow is a medium-range guided missile that can be launched either from the surface or the air to hit aerial targets, according to the manufacturer.

A Sparrow missile was launched successfully at 9:15 a.m. and followed its planned trajectory. The Arrow missile defense system successful detected and tracked the target, the Israeli ministry said. It was not clear from the statement if the Sparrow was shot down.

In Washington, there was no immediate White House comment.

5.15 pm: Israeli media confirms testing of 'Ankor-type' missiles with the American missile defence agency

Further information about the missile firings has emerged from Israel. Reports in the Israeli media have confirmed that the missiles were part of a joint Israel-US military exercise.

Al Arabiya said that the reports said that  Ankor-type missiles was directed from bases in the Mediterranean and in the centre of Israel.

"The Israeli defence ministry and the American MDA (Missile Defence Agency) Tuesday morning at 9:15 (0615 GMT) successfully launched an Ankor-type radar missile," it said in a statement. "The test was launched from the Mediterranean and directed from an army base in the centre of Israel."

The statement mentioned only one missile.

5.00 pm: India keeping a 'close watch' on Syria situation after missile testing furor 

India today said it was keeping a close watch on the situation in Syria amidst an increased likelihood of a military intervention by Western powers in the civil war raging in the country.

"We are in touch with our Mission (in Syria)... We also have our line of credit and various investments (in the country). "Obviously, they will come under question if there is a war-like situation, but all we can do today is to keep watch," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said today.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the FICCI-organised 3rd National Conference on Energy Security here. India had on August 31 asked all its nationals living in Syria to leave amidst an escalation of violence there even as the USA seemed to move closer to a military intervention in the war-torn country.

"Our Mission in Damascus is in contact with approximately 25-30 Indian citizens in Syria. Previously, we had advised all Indian citizens in Syria to return to India. They have once again been advised to leave," spokesperson in MEA, Syed Akbaruddin, had said.

4.30 pm: Israel ministry confirms missile test to BBC, US navy denies involvement

According to a report on NBC news, Israel did conduct an anti-missile test in the Mediterranean. The country apparently gave US advance warning, but the American navy was not directly involved.

A senior Ministry of Defence source has confirmed to the BBC that Israel had conducted a missile test over the Mediterranean.

Israel conducts missile test over Mediterranean, senior Ministry of Defence source tells BBC http://t.co/KdPymSaOxm

— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) September 3, 2013

A US Navy representative has denied firing missiles from any ships.

#BreakingNews: U.S. Navy did not fire any missiles from ships in #Mediterranean: Spokesman #US#Syria — Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) September 3, 2013

Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander William Speaks told the Associated Press: "I have nothing to confirm those reports whatsoever."

3.58 pm: Israel says it test fired missile with US 

The mystery is over! Reuters reports that Israel has claimed responsibility for the missile strike that has created so much panic across the globe. The Reuters alert quoted Israel as saying it has carried out a joint missile test with the US in the Mediterranean and tested a missile used in an anti-missile system.

While the Israeli army had initially denied any knowledge of the strikes, they are now saying that it was part of a 'drill,' according to Al Arabiya. Israel said it carried out a test of a missile, used as a target in a U.S.-funded anti-missile system, in the Mediterranean on Tuesday.

The Israeli Defence Ministry said the test was conducted at 9:15 a.m. (0615 GMT), about the same time that Russia's state-run RIA news agency reported that Russian radar had detected the launch of two ballistic "objects" in the Mediterranean.

3.50 pm: Russian Defence Ministry to issue statement on missile strikes

The Russian Defense Ministry is yet to confirm a report that two missiles were fired towards Syria, but said it would issue a statement soon. In Washington, a Pentagon press officer could not confirm the report.

The United States, which has war ships in the Mediterranean, is considering strikes against Syria for an 21 August alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb.

3.42 pm: Number of Syria refugees passes 2 million mark

The number of refugees fleeing Syria's violence has surpassed the 2 million mark, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday, as news reports claimed that the US had launched two 'test' missiles towards Syria. Meanwhile top U.S. officials are preparing to to argue before a key Senate committee for a punitive strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Obama administration insists it has a strong case against the Assad regime and that chemical weapons use must not go unpunished. Last week, President Barack Obama appeared poised to authorize military strikes, but unexpectedly stepped back to first seek approval from Congress, which returns from Summer recess next week.

Since then, the administration has relentlessly lobbied Congress for support in the most important foreign policy vote since the Iraq war a decade ago. Members of Obama's national security and intelligence teams have been holding classified, closed-door briefings for members of Congress. More sessions were scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

The U.N. refugee agency announced Tuesday that the number of Syrians who have fled the country has surpassed the 2 million mark.

Along with more than four million people displaced inside Syria, this means more than six million Syrians have been uprooted, out of an estimated population of 23 million.

The agency's special envoy, Angelina Jolie, said "some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse" if the situation keeps deteriorating at its current pace. Most Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Despite the grim toll, Assad has not shown any signs of backing down.

3.13 pm: US denies firing rockets towards Syria but panicked Sensex crashes

CBS News has just reported that the US has completely denied that any of its planes or ships have launched missiles in the Mediterranean towards Syria.

A NATO spokesman said the alliance was trying to verify the reports. Until then, the bloc will not comment on the incident.

This of course has not stopped the markets from crashing. The Sensex has crashed 676 points on the news, with key oil stocks the worst affected. The oil and gas sector is down 3.79 percent with RIL down 6.29 percent and IOC down 2.3 percent. For more on the market performance, click here

2.30 pm: US test fires two rockets towards Syria

Russian television channels have said that Russian radars detected two rockets fired towards Syria in the east Mediterranean sea.

Live Obama gets top Congress support for Syria intervention

Representational image

Russian radar detected two ballistic "objects" that were fired towards the eastern Mediterranean from the central part of the sea on Tuesday, state-run news agency RIA quoted the Defence Ministry as saying.

The Defence Ministry declined immediate comment to Reuters.

A ministry official had earlier criticised the United States for deploying warships in the Mediterranean close to Syria.

A report in Russian news site The Moscow News said "Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has informed President Vladimir Putin that two ballistic missiles have been launched in the Mediterranean Sea with a trajectory set for Syria. The Russian warning system for rocket launches on Tuesday morning detected the launch of the missiles at its Armavir radio-technical hub".

However a subsequent statement by the Russian embassy in Damascus has said that there are no signs of fall of missiles in the Syrian capital.

An Israeli military spokesman said they were not aware of any missile launch in the eastern Mediterranean.

Sky News' Foreign Affairs Editor Tim Marshall said: "There is very little information available, but the most likely explanation would be that the US is test firing some of its ship defence systems."

More details are presently awaited.

 

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