With support from France, the United States is now set to strike Syria and punish President Bashar al-Assad, for allegedly unleashing chemical weapons on his subject leading to the death of over 1,400 Syrians, including women and children last week in Damascus.
“We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale,” President Barack Obama told reporters at the White House, adding that the US was still in the planning process for a “limited, narrow” military response that would not involve “boots on the ground” or be open-ended.
Obama said chemical weapons attacks such as last week’s threatened U.S. national security interests as well as U.S. allies such as Israel, Turkey and Jordan.
“So, I have said before, and I meant what I said, that the world has an obligation to make sure that we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons,” he said. Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria must not get away with the attack, partly as a sign to those who might consider using chemical weapons in the future.
“History would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction,” Kerry said today.
The timing of the attack, most likely with cruise missiles from U.S. Navy destroyers already stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, was uncertain, but it was unlikely to come before U.N. weapons experts leave Syria on Saturday.
Kerry said that “if a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity,” it would set a bad example for others, such as Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea. He also showed evidence that Assad’s forces were behind the attack, just as the U.S. government released an unclassified intelligence report on the attack.
According to the report, the August 21 attack killed 1,429 Syrian civilians, including 426 children. “Any action that he might decide to take will be a limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable,” Kerry said.
The intelligence included an intercepted communication by a senior official intimately familiar with the attack as well as other intelligence from people’s accounts and intercepted messages, the four-page report said.
Assad’s government has repeatedly denied carrying out the chemical weapons attack, blaming rebels whom it suggested were trying to provoke intervention.
US will be carrying out the attack any moment from now without its strong allies of many years, the United Kingdom, whose parliament voted against use of force on Syria. But would likely be assisted by a regional ally in the region, Israel, which has threatened to strike Syria in recent past.