What Is Holding the U.S. Back from Military Action in Syria

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Reportedly facing pressure from U.N. security council allies, the U.S. is considering jumping into the Syrian conflict. The Wall Street Journal's Adam Entous and Julian Barnes report France, the United Kingdom and Israel are leaning on the U.S. to impose some kind of military action in Syria to make sure the country doesn't fall under the control of rising radical Islamist factions once Assad falls. The administration is debating a number of options, including "proposals to bomb Syrian aircraft on the ground and to use Patriot antimissile batteries in Turkey to defend swaths of northern Syria from the regime's Scud missiles," but it's unclear whether or not they'll act on anything. Discussions and ideas are in preliminary stages right now. 

There are some very important things to consider before the U.S. goes head long into another military conflict in the Middle East. The Obama administration has been reluctant to do much of anything in the region as they withdraw the last remaining troops in Afghanistan and try to bring that situation to a tidy end. (Easier said than done, though.) It would also be wise to get approval from either the U.N. security council or NATO before doing anything. Or, you know, they could not do that, according to the Journal:

Administration lawyers also have questioned on what legal grounds the U.S. can intervene militarily without either a United Nations or North Atlantic Treaty Organization mandate, barring a major provocation by Damascus such as an attack on Turkey or Jordan or the use of chemical weapons.

The U.K. and France share the distinction of being permanent members of the U.N. security council with the U.S.; Israel is not a member. It's not clear if the rest of the council would approve any action like it did in Libya.

But the toll the conflict has taken on Syria is also hard to ignore. The number of deaths skyrocketed in the last year up to 70,000, according to the U.N. The images emerging from the country are disturbing. On Saturday, 15 people were reportedly killed following a Syrian military air strike in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, including nine children. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.