White House officials say the United States may launch a limited military strike on Syria as early as this Thursday as the intelligence community prepares to release a report justifying action and allies are rallied.
Senior officials in the Obama administration told the Washington Post for an article published on Tuesday that the White House is weighing a limited strike on Syria and said on condition of anonymity that “We’re actively looking at the various legal angles that would inform a decision.”
According to the Post, the likely response from Washington would be a sea-to-land strike from the Mediterranean that would last no longer than two days and would not be directed towards targets where the chemical weapons arsenal is believed to be stored.
But while an attack is all but imminent and will likely be launched from warships already mobilized in the Mediterranean by the week’s end, public support in the US has teetered towards nil as of late. The Obama administration says there is undeniable proof that chemical weapons were used on civilians outside of Damascus on August 21, but a five-day-long Reuters poll taken during that time concluded only nine percent of Americans favor intervention.
Notwithstanding that lack of support, US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted Monday at a response which will jolt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ideally worsen the odds that his regime will implement chemical warheads again.
Despite insistence from Assad and allies in Russia that the Syrian government is not guilty of using chemical weapons, Sec. Kerry said during a press conference on Monday that “our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscious and guided by common sense.” Kerry called Assad’s reported attempt to cover-up the alleged use of chemical weapons “cynical” and said, “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”
One day earlier, Sec. Kerry admitted that Pres. Obama was considering his options with regards to a strike and was to meet with lawmakers in Congress as well as with international leaders. According to the Post article, however, the president may forego getting approval from Capitol Hill and will instead rely on striking Syria due to “undeniable,” as the White House puts it, war crimes.
“The administration has said that it will follow international law in shaping its response,” Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan wrote for the Post, adding, “But much of international law is untested, and administration lawyers are also examining possible legal justifications based on a violation of international prohibitions on chemical weapons use, or on an appeal for assistance from a neighboring nation such as Turkey.” Additionally, the US has already received assurance of support from Britain, France and Turkey.
According to senior administration officials who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, Pres. Obama met with his national security team this past weekend and has ordered that a declassified intelligence report showing the rationale for any attack on Syria be released before it occurs.
While only nine percent of the respondents polled in the Reuters survey between August 19 and 23 said they want the White House to respond to Assad’s reported use of chemical weapons immediately, 25 percent said they would favor intervention if the US concludes with certainty that those warheads were illegally used. A Reuters/Ipsos poll from earlier in the month found that 30.2 percent of Americans would support intervention if Assad is linked to using chemical weapons.
Sec. Kerry said the indiscriminate slaughter of women and children apparently being carried out by the Assad regime constitutes a “moral obscenity.”