To give you an overview of the latest news we’ve organized the latest Syrian developments in a curated summary.
Assad Speaks to Fox News, Pledges Weapons Handover, Blames al -Qaida for War. In a Fox News interview conducted by Greg Palkot and former representative Denis Kucinich, President Bashar al-Assad said he is committed to following a chemical weapons deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia. He accused Syria’s rebels of using sarin gas, denying his government was behind the Aug. 21 attack on Ghouta that nearly sparked a U.S. military strike on his country.
He denied Syria is facing a civil war, instead describing it as an attack by al-Qaida on his rule. From that narrative, he downplayed the deaths of civilian casualties, saying many of them were were “terrorists.”
“This is war. You don’t have clean war,” he said. Syrian state media carried the full transcript of the interview.
Syria May Miss First Chemical Weapons Deadline, As Power Squabble Over Evidence. The U.S. looks ready to relax its weekend deadline on Syria’s chemical weapons inventory, the Los Angeles Times reports. That signals a potential miss of the first milestone in the deal to curb the Assad regime’s arsenal.
“We’ve never said it was a hard and fast deadline,” said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman quoted in the piece. “Our goal is to see forward momentum” by Saturday, not the full list.
Recall that Secretary of State John Kerry’s original demand was for Syria to hand over all of its weapons, within a week.
Kerry says the threat of military force is still real, as an enforcement mechanism. But Syria’s regime is confident it won’t be used, at least not in a form that’s backed by the U.N. Security Council resolution, under a Chapter 7 resolution.
The Security Council is debating Syria this week, though it suffers from a split position between the U.S. and Russia. Russian officials challenge the U.S. allegation that Assad’s government launched a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, and say they have proof that rebels launched the attack. Western officials dismissed that proof as “completely fanciful.”
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog will meet on Friday to discuss the Russian-U.S. plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons – a task that the U.S.’s top general says would be feasible, despite the challenges of working in a war zone. U.N. chemical weapons inspectors could return to Syria next week, CNN reports.
Clashes Intensify Between al- Qaida and Free Syrian Army (aka the “Moderate Rebels”). The Wall Street Journal reports that moderate brigades are now fighting a “three front war,” battling the Assad regime, its allies in Hezbollah, and the al-Qaida linked jihadis that have taken root in northern Syria. That report says the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began a new battle campaign called “Expunging Filth,” to take down the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army.
Clashes between moderates and jihadists forced a border closing on the Turkish-Syrian frontier, as jihadists with ISIS reportedly overtook the Syrian town of Azaz. The Times of London carried an interesting account of coming face to face with ISIS/al- Qaida in Syria.
One factor that’s not helping the moderate side: the fact that they’re outgunned. Moderates forces have long called for Western support, to balance out the guns and money al- Qaida groups have mustered, but that support only recently began to reach them.
John McCain Shoots Back at Putin, in an oped in Russia’s Pravda newspaper. As a response to Putin’s own article in the New York Times, lecturing the U.S. on its Syria policy, McCain spoke directly to the Russian people, slamming Putin as an autocratic leader.
“I respect your dignity and your right to self-determination,” McCain wrote. “President Putin and his associates do not believe in these values. They don’t respect your dignity or accept your authority over them. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They rig your elections. They control your media.” The critiques roll on from there.
Suggested Reads from Our Editorial Team:
(Oxfam finds Russia and Qatar have given just 3% of their fair share to a UN appeal)
Reuters/Opinion: What is Next for Syria’s Opposition?
New York Times/Opinion: Fawzia’s Choice