Obama: Syrian government carried out chemical attack
An Israeli soldier is seen next to an Iron Dome rocket interceptor battery deployed near the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. Israel ordered a special call-up of reserve troops Wednesday as nervous citizens lined up at gas-mask distribution centers, preparing for possible hostilities with Syria. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
White House press secretary Jay Carney answers questions about Syria and chemical weapons during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. The U.S. was expected to make public a more formal determination of chemical weapons use on Tuesday, however Carney stated that the president did not have a decision made about the response to announce at this time. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
FILE - This Aug. 26, 2013 file photo shows Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia. U.S. forces are now ready to act on any order by President Barack Obama to strike Syria, U.S. Hagel said Tuesday.The U.S. Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea positioned within range of targets inside Syria, as well as U.S. warplanes in the region, Hagel said in an interview with BBC television during his visit to the southeast Asian nation of Brunei. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File)
Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja'afari speaks to reporters after a meeting about Syria at United Nations headquarters Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council met informally to discuss the language of a draft resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
President Obama yesterday declared unequivocally that the United States has “concluded” that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians. But new hurdles emerged that appeared to slow the formation of an international coalition that could use military force to punish Syria.
Obama did not present any direct evidence to back up his assertion that the Syrian government bears responsibility for the attack. While he said he is still evaluating possible military retaliation, the president vowed that any American response would send a “strong signal” to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out,” Obama said during an interview with PBS’s NewsHour. “And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences.”
Earlier yesterday, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement on a draft resolution from the British seeking authorization for the use of force. Russia, as expected, objected to international intervention.
Obama administration officials said they would take action against the Syrian government even without the backing of allies or the United Nations because diplomatic paralysis must not prevent a response to the alleged chemical weapons attack outside the Syrian capital last week.
Despite the administration’s assertions that it would press forward without the U.N., momentum for international military action appeared to slow.
British Prime Minister David Cameron promised British lawmakers he would not go to war until a U.N. chemical weapons team on the ground in Syria has a chance to report its findings, pushing the U.K.’s involvement in any potential strike until next week at the earliest. Cameron called an emergency meeting of Parliament today to vote on whether to endorse international action against Syria.
Even so, British Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested that U.S. military action need not be constrained by Britain. “The United States are able to make their own decisions,” he told reporters late yesterday, just after speaking with Secretary of State John Kerry.
U.S. officials were in search of additional intelligence to bolster the White House’s case for a strike against Assad’s military infrastructure.
American intelligence intercepted lower-level Syrian military commanders’ communications discussing a chemical attack, but the communications don’t specifically link the attack to an official senior enough to tie the killings to Assad himself, according to one U.S. intelligence official and two other U.S. officials. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the intelligence publicly.