Obama seeks justification for an attack on Syria as Navy warships wait off coast

USS Ramage

Signalling from the Obama administration that it plans military action against Syria have become more and more overt. Following reports of chemical weapons attacks on civilians by the Assad regime, Obama ordered several American warships off the coast of Syria.

U.S. officials seeem convinced that the chemical weapons attacks on civilians have come from the Assad regime, although no claim of direct evidence has been made.

From The Washington Free Beacon:

Pentagon officials said the naval power includes the guided missile destroyers USS Ramage, USS Mahan, USS Gravely, and USS Barry. At least one missile-firing submarine is also said to be in the region. Britain also reportedly has dispatched a missile-firing submarine to waters near Syria.

Now Obama has ordered documents giving legal justification for military action in Syria. CBS News broke the story:

President Barack Obama called his national security team together Saturday to talk about the next move in Syria. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper led off the three-hour White House meeting with detailed analysis of the evidence about the chemical weapons attack, the disposition of victims and what the administration now believes is a near air-tight circumstantial case that the Syrian regime was behind it.

Obama ordered a declassified report be prepared for public release before any military strike commences. That report, top advisers tell CBS News, is due to be released in a day or two.

There was no debate at the Saturday meeting that a military response is necessary. Obama ordered up legal justifications for a military strike, should he order one, outside of the United Nations Security Council. That process is well underway, and particular emphasis is being placed on alleged violations of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

It has been evident for some time that some military action is planned, but what form it will take is still up in the air. The Navy could strike chemical weapons facilities with cruise missiles. We may eventually see an air campaign similar to the US-led NATO action in Libya, possibly including coordination with rebel forces.

Here’s an article speculating on how a U.S. attack might proceed.

U.N. inspectors are in Syria gathering evidence, but while they should be able to determine whether a chemical weapons attack occurred,  it is unlikely that they will be able to determine who launched the attack. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has claimed that the Obama administration will be releasing evidence that the chemical attacks were orchestrated by the Assad regime. From The Guardian:

Kerry said that regardless of the outcome of the UN weapons inspections, the US had already concluded that Syria had used chemical weapons. “Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass,” he said. “What is before us today is real. And it is compelling.”

Chemical weapons could have been used only by Assad’s forces, which had custody over the country’s arsenal, Kerry said. He added that failure to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors for five days, and the regime’s decision to shell the affected neighbourhoods, “destroying evidence”, indicated an attempt to conceal the truth.

“That is not the behaviour of a government that has nothing to hide,” he said. “That is not the behaviour of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons.

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