US vows action in Syria even without UN backing
Updated: 2013-08-29 06:35
WASHINGTON - The US says it will take action against the Syrian government for alleged use of chemical weapons even without the backing of allies or the United Nations.
Protestors shout slogans during a rally against the proposed attack on Syria in central London August 28, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]
Britain added a hurdle to deliberations about a military strike on Wednesday when it went to the UN Security Council with a draft resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria. As expected, the five permanent members of the security council failed to reach an agreement as Russia reiterated its objections to international intervention in Syria.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf says the US cannot be held up in responding by Russia's intransigence at the United Nations.
Russia says the use of force without a sanction of the UN Security Council is a "crude violation" of international law.
People in Damascus stocked up on supplies on Wednesday and some left homes close to potential targets as US officials sketched out plans for multi-national air strikes on Syria that could last for days.
UN chemical weapons experts completed a second field trip to rebel-held suburbs, looking for evidence of what caused an apparent poison gas attack that residents say killed hundreds of people a week ago.
But as UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for unity among world powers and sought more time for the inspectors to complete their work, Washington and its European and Middle East allies said their minds were made up and that President Bashar al-Assad must face retribution for using banned weapons against his people.
There were growing signs, however, that the timeline for launching a widely expected military strike on Syria could be complicated not only by the UN inspectors' continued presence there but by the Obama administration's efforts to coordinate with international partners and growing demands for consultation with US lawmakers.
Syria's government, supported notably by its main arms supplier Russia, cried foul. It blamed rebel "terrorists" for releasing the toxins with the help of the United States, Britain and France, and warned it would be a "graveyard of invaders".
Syrian officials say the West is playing into the hands of its al Qaeda enemies. The presence of Islamist militants among the rebels has deterred Western powers from arming Assad's foes. But the West says it must now act to stop the use of poison gas.
Britain pushed the other four veto-holding members of the UN Security Council at a meeting in New York to authorise military action against Assad to protect Syrian civilians - a move certain to be blocked by Russia and, probably, China. The meeting ended without a decision.
The United States and its allies say a UN veto will not stop them. Western diplomats called the proposed resolution a manoeuvre to isolate Moscow and rally a coalition behind air strikes. Arab states, NATO and Turkey also condemned Assad.
Washington has said repeatedly that President Barack Obama has not yet made up his mind on what action he will order.
A senior US official said strikes could last several days and would involve other armed forces: "We're talking to a number of different allies regarding participation in a possible kinetic strike," the official said on Wednesday.
Western armies are expected to wait until the UN experts withdraw. Their initial 14-day mandate expires in four days, and Ban said they needed four days to complete the work.
A second US official said objectives were still being defined but that the targets could be chosen to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons in future. Washington was confident it could handle Syrian defences and any possible reprisals by its allies, including Iran and Lebanese militia Hezbollah.