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Obama: US will attack Syria even without UN, ally support

Published: Wed, August 28, 2013 @ 6:14 p.m.


The Obama administration said Wednesday it would take action against the Syrian government even without the backing of allies or the United Nations because diplomatic paralysis must not prevent a response to the alleged chemical weapons attack outside the Syrian capital last week.

New requests for the United Nations to authorize military action in Syria may have complicated the Obama administration's plan to take retaliatory action on the purported poison gas attack east of Damascus that U.S. officials claim was carried out by President Bashar Assad's forces.

But a State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. would respond even in the absence of U.N. backing.

"We cannot be held up in responding by Russia's intransigence - continued intransigence - at the United Nations," Marie Harf said. "The situation is so serious that it demands a response."

The U.S. has not publicly presented proof that Assad's government used deadly chemical weapons near Damascus last week. Even so, U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have pointed a finger squarely at Assad. The administration was planning a teleconference briefing Thursday on Syria for leaders of the House and Senate and national security committees in both parties, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.

U.S. intelligence intercepted lower-level Syrian military commanders' communications discussing the chemical attack, but the communications don't specifically link the attack to an official senior enough to tie the killings to Assad himself, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the intelligence publicly.

The White House ideally wants intelligence that links the attack directly to Assad or someone in his inner circle, to rule out the possibility that a rogue element of the military decided to use chemical weapons without Assad's authorization.

That quest for added intelligence to bolster the White House's case for a strike against Assad's military infrastructure has delayed the release of the report by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence laying out evidence against Assad. The report was promised earlier this week by administration officials.

The CIA and the Pentagon have been working to gather more human intelligence tying Assad to the attack, relying on the intelligence services of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, the officials said.

Both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency have their own human sources - the rebel commanders and others who cross the border to brief CIA and defense intelligence officers at training camps in Jordan and Turkey. But their operation is much smaller than some of the other intelligence services, and it takes longer for their contacts to make their way overland.

Britain added a hurdle to deliberations about a military strike on Wednesday when it went to the U.N. Security Council with a draft resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria. This, as momentum seemed to be building among Western allies for a strike against Syria.

The draft seemed doomed before it was proposed. As expected, the five permanent members of the security council failed to reach an agreement as Russia reiterated its objections to international intervention in the Syrian crisis. Russia, along with China, has blocked past attempts to sanction the Assad government.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that the use of force without a sanction of the U.N. Security Council would be a "crude violation" of international law and "lead to the long-term destabilization of the situation in the country and the region."

Syria, which sits on one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, has denied the charges. Moreover, Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, is demanding that United Nations experts investigate three alleged chemical weapons attacks against Syrian soldiers. He said the attacks occurred on Aug. 22, 24 and 25 in three suburbs of the Syrian capital and dozens of soldiers are being treated for inhaling nerve gas.

The draft U.N. resolution was an effort to bolster British Prime Minister David Cameron's case that a military action is needed. Cameron has called an emergency meeting of the British Parliament on Thursday to vote on whether to endorse international action against Syria.

He's promised British lawmakers he would not go to war until chemical weapons inspectors had a chance to report back to the world body about their findings. That means British involvement in any potential strike wouldn't occur until next week at the earliest.

But British Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested that U.S. military action need not be constrained by Britain's parliamentary timetable.

"The United States are able to make their own decisions," he told reporters late Wednesday, just after speaking with Secretary of State John Kerry. "Of course, we will remain closely coordinated with them and in close touch with them,as we are every day."

Certain members of Congress are expected to get a classified U.S. intelligence report laying out the case against Assad. An unclassified version is to be made public. Officials say it won't have any detail that would jeopardize sources and methods.

Administration officials have asserted that the use and potential spread of chemical weapons are a threat to U.S. national security.

"The mass-scale use of chemical weapons, or of course the potential proliferation of those weapons, flagrantly violates an important international norm and threatens American national security," Harf said.

Some lawmakers have argued that Congress must authorize any military action unless there has been an attack on the U.S. or the existence of an eminent threat to the U.S. Both Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday pressed the White House to provide a clear explanation of how military action would secure U.S. objectives.

Specifically, in a letter to Obama, House Speaker John Boehner asked him to make his case to Congress and the public about how military action would "secure American national security interests, preserve America's credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy."


1Attis(1134 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Obama is hell bent on turning MLK's dream into a nightmare by making the USA al-Qaeda's air force upon his orders to bomb Syria.

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2Jerry(859 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Like I said yesterday, like him or not, agree with him or not, former president George W. Bush sought and got the approval of Congress before utilizing military action. Former president GWB also put together and acted with a coalition of allies, presented the case to the UN, and waited for the outcome of multiple UN actions and sanctions.

We could also note that PM David Cameron of Great Britain has recalled his parliament into special session this week, to discuss this and seek their approval before taking action with his military.

Quoting then senator Obama in 2008 - “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,”

Quoting then Senator Joe Biden in 2007 - “It is precisely because the consequences of war – intended or otherwise – can be so profound and complicated that our Founding Fathers vested in Congress, not the President, the power to initiate war, except to repel an imminent attack on the United States or its citizens. They reasoned that requiring the President to come to Congress first would slow things down… allow for more careful decision making before sending Americans to fight and die… and ensure broader public support………….The Founding Fathers were, as in most things, profoundly right.”

Then senator Joe Biden also went on to promise that he would personally lead efforts to impeach then president George W. Bush, if Bush took military action without Congressional approval.

Here in 2013, however, it seems President Obama feels that he's too important to be restricted in this manner.

I wonder what has changed?? Could it have something to do with some loud-mouthed dolt setting a "red-line in the sand" a year ago, when he didn't have a clue as to what he was going to do if that bogus blustering was challenged, and now he has to save his political face by engaging us in a violent conflict? I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with actually wanting to capture and secure those chemical weapons. Some of them may still have the “Made in Iraq” stickers on them (How embarrassing would that be??).

Today we heard more loudmouthed blustering about “putting a shot across their bow”. I wonder what the plan is if they ignore the shot across the bow? I wonder what the plan is if they shoot back. I wonder what the plan is if Russia or China shoot back.

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3kk80586(229 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Jerry- honestly now.... you didn't REALLY expect anything different from the party of hypocrites, did you?

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4VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

When did we learn that interfering in another country's civil war is a good thing?

This is a no-win situation.

Do we really think spending $200 million on cruise missiles is going to solve the problem?

I prefer to see our military being used to protect our nation and our citizens, and not on an internal civil war in another nation.

Since we are winding up our efforts in Afghanistan, are we looking for a new overseas war to ship our troops to?

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