Wednesday, August 28, 2013

U.S., U.K. Face Delays in Push to Strike Syria

Well, it was looking like a headlong rush to war there for a second.

But see the Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama declared that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians last week and must pay the price, capping a day of stalled diplomacy that suggested any military strikes could be delayed.

Mr. Obama cautioned that he hasn't yet decided whether to launch an attack, saying in an interview with PBS that he wants to send a shot across Syria's bow without drawing the U.S. into a long conflict.

Syria and Iran warned Wednesday of regional chaos should the U.S. launch strikes on Syria, and threatened to retaliate against Israel.

Mr. Obama's comments capped a day in which the U.S. and British push to gain approval for military strikes appeared to meet with resistance and possible delays. They also appeared to moderate U.S. officials' earlier signals that an attack could be mounted "in coming days" in response to what they call clear-cut indications that Syria used chemical weapons in attacks around Damascus early on Aug. 21. Activists and residents say more than 1,000 people died in the attacks.

The current Syria debate recalled the positions of the U.S. and U.K. in 2003, when the countries built a case for going to war with Iraq, arguing that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and ultimately invaded without a U.N. Security Council resolution. The U.S. was heavily criticized for entering into what became a yearslong campaign based on false intelligence.

American and British officials argue that the case of Syria is different, instead drawing parallels to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization attacks on Kosovo. The U.S. has said it isn't planning a ground invasion, but officials have suggested they could mount strikes against key military bases of President Bashar al-Assad from ships in the Mediterranean Sea. The intention of any strike, they have said, isn't to topple Mr. Assad but to diminish his military capability.

Late Wednesday in the U.K., Prime Minister David Cameron's government agreed to demands by politicians to hold a separate vote to approve any military action in Syria, reflecting a domestic desire to avoid a repeat of the country's swift backing for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The vote is expected early next week.

The process to be followed by British officials won't automatically affect the timing of any U.S. action.

A senior administration official said that while the U.S. and U.K. are coordinating closely, domestic British considerations won't necessarily slow the U.S. decision on military action. "We're making our own decisions in our own timeline," the official said.

In the U.S., House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) sent a letter to President Obama demanding a clear explanation of any military action against Syria before it starts, and criticizing the president's level of consultation with lawmakers. Separately, 116 House lawmakers—98 Republicans and 18 Democrats—signed a letter to Mr. Obama, demanding he seek congressional authorization for a military strike.

Mr. Boehner's letter called on Mr. Obama to inform Americans and members of Congress of his objectives, policy goals and overarching strategy in Syria before the first missiles are launched, according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Continue reading.

More at the Los Angeles Times, "Syria resolution dies at U.N., and British lawmakers balk."

RELATED: See Noah Shachtman, at Foreign Policy, "Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say."