The march toward an assault on Syria continues to gain speed this morning as Britain has called a special session of Parliament and the Syrian opposition has reportedly been told to expect an attack within days. Members of the Syrian opposition who have been meeting with diplomats in Istanbul says that have been told there will soon be retaliatory action, and NBC News even reports that anb assault (most likely cruise missiles) could come as early as Thursday.
Both the U.K. and the U.S. are reportedly drawing up their attack options for a series of limited surgical strikes on key government facilities, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the BBC that the United States military is "ready to go" once called upon. In London, Prime Minister David Cameron said that Members of Parliament will be recalled on Thursday, to vote on a "clear motion" that would presumably authorize him to strike back in response to a Syrian chemical weapon attacks.
In addition, French President Francois Hollande said this afternoon that "France is ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents."
The Arab League has also joined the call for retaliation, suggesting that a wide international consensus is building, even without United Nations giving its blessing. Don't forget that all of this has happened without the U.N. inspectors who were sent to learn the truth, actually coming back with anything concrete. After being delayed (and shot at) the inspectors won't be returning to the site of the alleged attack until at least Wednesday. However, the U.S. and U.K. still insist that they have their own evidence pointing to the regime's responsibility.
The Washington Post reports that the strikes will likely last just a day or two and be limited to Syrian military targets (that are not related to chemical weapons.) The U.S. has explicitly said that the goal is not to cripple or kill Bashar al-Assad, or even tilt the war in favor of the rebels. Although hitting the right targets could do that.) And they also seem to be ruling out the more restrictive idea of a bombing campaign or a no-fly zone. The goal is merely to send a message that more chemical weapons will bring more trouble.
The Syrians, of their part, are not backing down. Their Foreign Minister, Walid Moallem, "dare[d]" other nations to produce the evidence that proves that the Syrian military carried out a chemical weapons attacks, and said the country will defend itself if attacked. ("We have the materials to defend ourselves. We will surprise others.") The U.S. is planning to reveal that evidence, but a public trial on Syria's guilt appears to be beside the point. From Hagel to Cameron to Secretary of State John Kerry, all signs indicate that an attack is in motion and won't be pulled back. All that's left to be decided is the time and location.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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