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7 Important New Things You Should Know About the Syria Crisis

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied that his regime used chemical weapons while the U.S. continued to make the case for military action.
 
 
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Portraits of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Photo Credit: James Gordon/Flickr

 
 
 
 

The Obama administration continues to forcefully argue that military action on Syria is needed, while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied that his regime used chemical weapons in an interview with Charlie Rose.

Those are just two of the most recent news items to emerge from the ongoing Syrian crisis. Here are 7 new developments you should know about:

1. Assad’s Denial and Threats

PBS’ Charlie Rose traveled to Damascus over the weekend to interview Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The full interview will be aired Monday evening, but excerpts of it have already been released.

Assad told Rose that his government did not carry out an attacking using sarin gas on Syrian civilians and rebels. He also threatened the U.S. with retaliation if it bombs his regime. “You should expect everything. Not necessarily from the government,” said Assad, in a reference to non-state allies like Hezbollah.

2. John Kerry’s Ultimatum

Secretary of State Kerry said that Assadhas one week to turn over his chemical weapons to the world or else an attack would be launched.

But the ultimatum was just a rhetorical tool, the State Department clarified later. “ His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons, otherwise he would have done so long ago,” the department said in a statement.

Kerry also said that he had no doubt that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack and that responsibility for the attack rests on Bashar al-Assad’s shoulders.

3. Did Assad Order the Chemical Attack?

A German news report has raised questions about the assertion that Bashar Assad himself is responsible for a chemical weapons attack.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that Assad did not personally approve of the use of chemical weapons, according to German intelligence, though the report says the military did carry out an attack. The report goes on to say that “Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four-and-a-half months,” but permission was denied, according to a Reuters recap of the German report.

4. Obama’s PR Blitz

The president is taking to the airwaves to make his case for military action. On Monday, President Obama will appear on six TV news outlets to discuss why military intervention in Syria is justified. He will appear on the three network news outlets-- ABC, NBC and CBS--as well as PBS, Fox News and CNN.

5. Horrific Videos Posted

CNN posted gruesome videos of the alleged chemical weapons attack that the Senate Intelligence Committee was shown by the Obama administration. The video shows men convulsing, children flailing and dozens of dead kids.

The videos will reportedly be shown to House members on Monday.

6. Poll Shows Americans Opposed to Syria Strike

A new poll released by CNN reveals that the majority of Americans continue to be opposed to a strike on Syria. While 80 percent of Americans believe Assad gassed his own people, a strong majority do not want U.S. military strikes to be carried out.

CNN reports that the poll shows that “more than seven in 10 say such a strike would not achieve significant goals for the U.S. and a similar amount say it's not in the national interest for the U.S. to get involved in Syria's bloody two-year-long civil war.”

Anti-war activists continue to capitalize on the sentiment against military force, with vigils being held across the country tonight to protest intervention in Syria.
 
7. Russia Proposes a Way Out
 
After John Kerry made his off-the-cuff remark about giving Syria one week to hand over chemical weapons, Russia took him seriously. They said they wanted Syria to hand over their weapons, and now Syria is welcoming the proposal. It's unclear what the U.S. response will be, but it could be a way out of military intervention.

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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