US action against Syria is all but certain, to send the message that use of chemical weapons won't be tolerated. The next questions are, how much international backing will Obama seek, and who will stand with him?
Senior US officials are making clear that President Obama will act in coming days to punish Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad for what the US has concluded was his regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians – and to signal to the world that the United States will not tolerate any crossing of the red line against chemical weapons use.
A key question now is what backing Mr. Obama will seek on the international stage as he green-lights expected military action, and who will stand with the US as it moves forward.
“Make no mistake: President Obama intends to hold accountable those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement at the State Department Monday afternoon.
Mr. Kerry – who said he had repeatedly viewed gut-wrenching videos of the victims of last week’s attacks outside Damascus as he consulted with world leaders about the response – also described the aims of US action as twofold.
Calling the use of chemical weapons “a moral obscenity,” Kerry said the implications of the attack in Damascus suburbs stretched “beyond Syria itself” to “the indiscriminate use of weapons the civilized world decided long ago should never be used.”
His words suggest that the US will not act alone, but will seek to create a large enough coalition in support of any action to argue that the “civilized world” supports it.
The US has not said whether it will seek United Nations backing for any action, but such a move seems unlikely because Russia has already made clear that it would stand in the way of Security Council approval. Russia has previously vetoed other Security Council resolutions on Syria that it fears might be used as a pretext for international intervention, so it would almost certainly veto a resolution that overtly seeks to legitimize US action.