The U.S. and the U.K. today said they are prepared to take military action against Syria without authorization from the United Nations Security Council.
After Russia objected to a UN resolution offered by the U.K. authorizing action to protect civilians, a State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. will take “appropriate” action without the international body’s approval.
“We do not believe the Syrian regime should be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action” at the UN, Marie Harf told reporters today.
“By far the best thing would be if the United Nations could be united, unlikely as that seems in the face of the vetoes from Russia and China that we’ve had in the past,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in London. “But we have to try to do that. We’re clear that if there isn’t agreement at the United Nations, then we and other nations still have a responsibility on chemical weapons.”
The U.S. and its NATO allies began presenting their justification for military action against Syria as they advanced plans for launching strikes and prepared evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said after a meeting of allies today in Brussels that evidence from a “wide variety of sources” implicates the Syrian government in the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed as many as 1,300 Syrians in eastern suburbs of Damascus, the capital.
Using language that provides a basis for collective military action, he said, “We consider the use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security.”
President Barack Obama and allied leaders are working to define the objectives of a military strike on Syria, according to a U.S. official. Any use of force won’t be limited to a one- day operation, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing war-planning efforts.
The U.S. is concerned that letting the Syrian government go unpunished would send a signal to other countries, including North Korea, that have large inventories of chemical weapons, as well as making it likely that the Assad government will attack civilians with such weapons again, according to the U.S. official.
While the U.S. has warships and submarines carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles ready for action in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, any military move may still be days away, in part because a team of UN weapons inspectors needs at least two more days to complete its report.