U.S. officials planning potential military strikes on Syria aren’t limited to a one-day operation, an administration official said, as the UN Security Council’s permanent members considered a resolution condemning last week’s suspected chemical attack.
The U.S. and its allies are still working to define goals for a military strike on Syria, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing war-planning efforts. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said today the United Nations resolution offered by his country would authorize action to protect civilians in Syria.
U.S. and British officials say there’s little doubt that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are responsible for the chemical attacks near Damascus that opposition groups say killed more than 1,300 people. The head of the UN said its inspectors in Syria need time to establish the facts.
The U.K. resolution would allow the use of “all necessary measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to protect civilians from chemical weapons,” Cameron’s office in London said in an e-mailed statement. The veto-wielding permanent Security Council members -- the U.S., U.K., Russia, China and France -- were meeting in New York to discuss the draft. Russia, an ally of Syria with a naval base in the country, has so far opposed moves to censure Assad’s government.
Having ruled out an operation aimed at overthrowing Assad, the Obama administration is seeking to clarify its objectives, plan for possible retaliatory moves by Assad to strike out against allies and neighbors and establish the legal justification for an attack before committing itself to military action, the official said. Assad and his government have denied using chemical weapons.
UN chemical inspectors today visited the site of alleged attacks in the Ghouta area, near Damascus, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a news conference in The Hague. The inspectors, who now have spent two days at the site, need a total of four days to complete their investigation, Ban said.
“The team needs time to do its job,” Ban said. “It is essential to establish the facts.”
The alleged attack has fueled calls for deeper global involvement in the 2 1/2-year Syrian civil war, with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal calling for a “decisive and serious international stance,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported today.