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Now Britain has opted out in a stunning vote by Parliament, should America launch military action against Syria alone?

obama syria

President Barack Obama on Thursday prepared for the possibility of launching unilateral American military action against Syria within days as Britain opted out in a stunning vote by Parliament. Facing skepticism at home, too, the administration shared intelligence with lawmakers aimed at convincing them the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people and must be punished.

Despite roadblocks in forming an international coalition, Obama appeared undeterred and advisers said he would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own.

"The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Even before the vote in London, the U.S. was preparing to act without formal authorization from the United Nations, where Russia has blocked efforts to seek a resolution authorizing the use of force, or from Capitol Hill. But the U.S. had expected Britain, a major ally, to join in the effort.

Top U.S. officials spoke with certain lawmakers for more than 90 minutes in a teleconference Thursday evening to explain why they believe Bashar Assad's government was the culprit in a suspected chemical attack last week. Lawmakers from both parties have been pressing Obama to provide a legal rationale for military action, to specify objectives and to lay out a firm case linking Assad to the attack.

Afterward, the House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, pointedly sided with Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in urging the administration to do more to engage with Congress on the matter, even as she expressed "my appreciation for the measured, targeted and limited approach the president may be considering."

She said in a statement she agreed with Boehner and other lawmakers who say the administration needs to consult more with "all members of Congress" – a reference to the limited circle briefed Thursday night – and provide "additional transparency into the decision-making process."

The high-level officials who spoke to the lawmakers offered more details of the suspected chemical attack and their firm conviction that the Syrian government was to blame – but little new evidence backing up that conviction. It remained to be seen whether any skeptics were swayed by the call, given the expectation in advance that officials would hold back classified information to protect intelligence sources and methods.

The officials told lawmakers 1,300 men, women and children died in the attack, said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. That's a far higher death toll than has been reported; the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders says the attack outside Damascus killed 355.

A number of lawmakers raised questions in the briefing about how the administration would finance a military operation as the Pentagon is grappling with automatic spending cuts and reduced budgets.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee and a participant on the call, said in a statement that the administration presented a "broad range of options" for dealing with Syria but failed to offer a single plan, timeline, strategy or explanation of how it would pay for any military operation.

"The main thing was that they have no doubt that Assad's forces used chemical weapons," New York Rep. Eliot Engel, top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a supporter of Obama's course, said after the briefing.

Even so, he said the officials did not provide much new evidence of that.

"They said they have (intercepted) some discussions and some indications from a high-level official," he said, and that they possess intelligence showing material being moved in advance of the attack.

An intelligence report similar to the findings shared with lawmakers Thursday night is expected to be released publicly on Friday.

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron argued a military strike would be legal on humanitarian grounds. But he faced deep pressure from lawmakers and had already promised not to undertake military action until a U.N. chemical weapons team on the ground in Syria released its findings about the Aug. 21 attack.

The prime minister said in terse comments after the vote that while he believes in a "tough response" to the use of chemical weapons, he would respect the will of the House of Commons.

Caitlin Hayden, Obama's National Security Council spokeswoman, said the U.S. would continue to consult with Britain but Obama would make decisions based on "the best interests of the United States."

It was not certain the U.S. would have to act alone. France announced that its armed forces "have been put in position to respond" if President Francois Hollande commits forces to intervention against Syria. Hollande does not need French parliamentary approval to launch military action that lasts less than four months.

Assad, who has denied using chemical weapons, vowed his country "will defend itself against any aggression."

Some of the U.N. chemical weapons experts will travel directly from Syria on Saturday to different laboratories around Europe to deliver "an extensive amount of material" gathered, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said. While the mandate of the U.N. team is to determine whether chemical agents were used in the attack, not who was responsible, Haq suggested the evidence – which includes biological samples and witness interviews – might give an indication of who deployed gases.

Obama and other top officials have not revealed definitive evidence to back claims that Assad used chemical weapons on Syrians. U.S. officials say the intelligence assessments are no "slam dunk," with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the intelligence publicly.

Despite shortcomings in the intelligence, the White House signaled urgency in acting, with Earnest, the White House spokesman saying the president believes there is a "compressed time frame" for responding.

"It is important for the Assad regime and other totalitarian dictators around the world to understand that the international community will not tolerate the indiscriminate, widespread use of chemical weapons, particularly against women and children as they're sleeping in their beds," he said.

But many Congress members were pressing Obama to explain the need for military action and address fears that such a move might draw the U.S. deeper into the Syrian civil war.

Washington Rep. Adam Smith, senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, cautioned that an attack might be ineffective and might draw the United States into the Syrian civil war, now in its third year.

"Simply lashing out with military force under the banner of `doing something' will not secure our interests in Syria," Smith said in a statement.

Obama continued making his case for a robust response to world leaders, speaking Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. With national elections scheduled in Germany for next month, Merkel is unlikely to pull her country into a military conflict.

Merkel also discussed Syria by phone Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, insisting that the attack "requires an international reaction," Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Obama has ruled out putting American forces on the ground in Syria or setting up a no-fly zone over the country. He's also said any U.S. response to the chemical weapons attack would be limited in scope and aimed solely at punishing Assad for deploying deadly gases, not at regime change.

"We do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable," he said during a television interview.

The most likely military option would be Tomahawk cruise missile strikes from four Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. At a minimum, Western forces are expected to strike targets that symbolize Assad's military and political might: military and national police headquarters, including the Defense Ministry; the Syrian military's general staff; and the four-brigade Republican Guard that is in charge of protecting Damascus, Assad's seat of power. Assad's ruling Baath Party headquarters could be targeted, too.

U.S. officials also are considering attacking military command centers and vital forces, communications hubs and weapons caches, including ballistic missile batteries.


Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier, Matt Apuzzo, Donna Cassata and Bradley Klapper in Washington, Alexandra Olson at the United Nations, Robert Burns in Manila, Philippines, and Raquel Dillon in Valencia, Calif., contributed to this report.

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Comment by Laren Hughes on September 3, 2013 at 6:18pm
Save the children, citizens but don't rush in. Investigate, communicate and stop be world bully America.
Comment by Laren Hughes on September 3, 2013 at 6:14pm
Comment by mr fix on September 1, 2013 at 5:55pm

@Ab Gai Syria has resources that we need America don't fight any war without nothing to gain it's not about the Syrian people it's what we're benefiting from it 

Comment by Bombahdrop on September 1, 2013 at 2:48pm
Where has the love gone too. Can't a bunch of so-called educated leaders come to a peaceful compromise. All these leaders can come up with Is vengeance, revenge, hate and warring. Then to make matters worst their communication amongst each country have shut down communication just a bunch of childish sh** they doing.
Comment by OC on September 1, 2013 at 1:51pm

In the Syria Chemical warfare is addressed to the International Community and Nato. If there were a resolution to go War. Then Nato would ask Counties to join. But there is no rush to say Yeah Syria gazed Syria then  let's go fight Syria . Soon that the International community really establish who's responsible, action can be taken against that individual . The Assad government is blaming the rebel and the rebel are blaming the Assad government. The most sad thing is that many children have perished along with their parents. Some have manage to escape to neighbouring borders. Definitely, something must be done to stop this chemical warfare otherwise we will count the cost for not taking action.


Comment by Dexter on September 1, 2013 at 2:36am

@Sharon, hoping cooler heads prevail & they try diplomacy but it's just wishful thinking.

Very good post verygoodD

Comment by Ab Gai on September 1, 2013 at 2:33am
If the US wants to play captain save a hoe, why the f*** they didn't intervene in The war in Sudan. There is a whole generation of males between 25 -30yrs old missing there. The US, the brits, the Russians, arabs didnt care then. They dont care now.
So I day f*** it. Let them fight so I can invest in their stock market and cash out when they take a break from killing each other.
Comment by Ab Gai on September 1, 2013 at 2:12am
I have friends I havent seen in 2 or 3 years because of war. And come to find out the f****** b**** lied about weapons of mass destruction. so my friends are out their risking their lives for nothing.
Comment by Ab Gai on September 1, 2013 at 2:09am
Cant we all just get chocolate wasted while i sip on this Ciroc (shamelss plug)and make love,not war. Clearly war solves nothing.
Comment by VeryGoodD on August 31, 2013 at 11:30pm

US does not need another war.  This country called the United States of America is broke and stretching itself too, too thin. The Robber Barons control the US and many other Western countries like the UK, France, etc.  These countries does not care about you and me.  All they care about is how they will start another war and sell their weaponry and war machines in the International markets.  They will kill you and go to church the next hour of next day and pretend like nothing had happened.  It has been going on for so many years.  1% of the population controls 99% of the rest of the world; this is so sad and unjust.  US just got out of Iraq after the George W. Bush Administration lied to all the American people; lied at the United Nations using Colin Powell; messed up the US Economy till tomorrow; spent all the surpluses that President Clinton created, now we are in a super negative, borrowing money every minute from the Chinese.  US needs to stop Policing the world and get serious by creating the needed jobs in the US and stop lying that US is doing good.  All the infrastructures of the US has aged and aging so badly.  The war mongers Republicans are setting up President Obama and he is finally bowing down and falling for it.  There is still an on-going war started by President Bush in Afghanistan and now we are fooling ourselves that by bombing Syria is going to be the solution.  Egypt has erupted and the Obama Administration does not even know yet what and how to solve this Monster.  US definitely need to put their house in order, thrive like they used to; stop punishing the weak of the society and become the world leader they so deserve.  The Empire of US of A is faltering and falling.  Our kids kids will be in debt for 100s of years.  Let us wake up and smell the coffee....It doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that another WAR is not needed.  This will not create jobs.  I hope our President get back to the promises he made in 2007 and 2012.  Stop killing our young kids at unnecessary war to benefit the Filthy Rich.  Leave Syria alone; let the Arabs who are in the same League figure out how to stabilize the country.  Every country will not and cannot be a Democratic nation like the US always think it will be; now we see what is happening again in Egypt.  Libya is in shambles and so are some few other unstable countries in the Arab Peninsula.

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