US President Barack Obama has laid out justifications for a possible military strike on Syria. He has said that he’s “concluded” the Syrian regime was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack.
Obama explained Wednesday how he would use a limited military strike to deter future chemical weapons use. He provided no evidence to back up his claim that President Bashar al-Assad’s government was behind the recent attack.
The US leader added he had “not made a decision” on how close he was to approving military intervention, but that such an operation would send a “strong signal” to Assad.
“We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these [attacks] out,” Obama told US broadcaster PBS. “And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences.”
He described a “tailored, limited” strike rather than a drawn-out military campaign, saying “direct military engagement, involvement in the civil war in Syria, would not help the situation on the ground.”
A team of United Nations weapons inspectors is currently working in Syria, gathering evidence from the alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people last week. Syria has consistently rejected accusations that its military carried out the attack, instead blaming “terrorist” rebels.
Seeking international support
Earlier on Wednesday, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council failed to come to an agreement on a British draft resolution authorizing military force in Syria. Russia told the Council that the move was premature.
However, the US and other Western countries have said that the strike could happen even without approval from the UN.
“We see no avenue forward, given continued Russian opposition to any meaningful Council action on Syria,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “We cannot be held up in responding by Russia’s continued intransigence at the United Nations, and quite frankly the situation is so serious that it demands a response.”
Britain, Germany in agreement
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday evening and the two agreed there was “sufficient evidence” of Syria’s chemical weapons use, making “an international reaction essential.”
“Both hope that no member of the [United Nations] Security Council closes their eyes to this crime against humanity and that the appropriate consequences will be agreed to,” said Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
Cameron is due to make the case for military action while addressing parliament in London on Thursday. However, opposition from within British parliament has already forced Cameron to promise he would wait to launch a military strike until the UN weapons inspectors had presented their findings.
dr/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)