Syrian Opposition Fighters Prepare for U.S. Military Strikes, Putin Calls for Evidence
As the White House edges closer to launching "targeted" military strikes on Syria, opposition forces in the region are at the ready to join the action, a rebel leader said Saturday. Meanwhile, Putin is calling Obama's bluff, and is demanding to be shown the evidence that proves the regime's role in the deadly chemical attacks.
Qassim Saadeddine, a spokesman for the rebels' Supreme Military Council (understood to be the rebels' main political group abroad) spoke to journalists Saturday, saying that the council had given opposition fighters a military plan of action to enact if and when strikes take place.
"The hope is to take advantage when some areas are weakened by any strikes. We ordered some groups to prepare in each province, to ready their fighters for when the strike happens," Saaddeddine told Reuters.
"They were sent a military plan that includes preparations to attack some of the targets we expect to be hit in foreign strikes, and some others that we hope to attack at the same time," he added.Also on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the U.S. to reconsider its military plans, claiming that the allegations against the Syrian regime are senseless and pointing out the regime's position of power with relation to the rebels.
"Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions," he said."In these conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for a military intervention is utter nonsense."
"I'm convinced that is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict," he added.
Putin has also called on the U.S. to share the evidence it claims to have with its political partners.
“If they say that the governmental forces used weapons of mass destruction […] and that they have proof of it, let them present it to the UN inspectors and the Security Council,” the Russian leader said.
On Friday, the White House distributed its intelligence file on the chemical attacks of August 21, and claimed that "a substantial body of information [...] implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack," but also adding that there "is additional intelligence that remains classified."
"If there is evidence it should be shown. If it is not shown, then there isn't any," Putin challenged.
Although the White House has been sending pretty strong indications that a military strike is imminent, Obama has yet to confirm a clear plan of action, and it's not clear when he will indeed strike. Although previously unable to take much action because the UN inspections team was in the area, now that they've left, one obstacle has theoretically been cleared.
The President leaves for Sweden on Tuesday and then immediately goes onto the G20 in Russia — and as the BBC has pointed out, "after his Secretary of State has ramped up the rhetoric about the historic, momentous importance of sending a signal, leaving it a week might be too long." So it's looking like the most likely time for a military strike will be Labor Day weekend.