With the Navy waiting in the wings, the President now has to decided whether or not the U.S. will for the first time execute a military strike in the Syrian conflict. If he does decide to strike, Obama will use similar actions taken by President Bill Clinton to subvert Russia's authority on the U.N. Security Council.
The U.N. Security Council have tried in vain to decide a Syrian course of action for months now. Every time the major countries get together, Russia's vote -- and their ties with Bashar al-Assad's regime -- always leads to nothing getting done.
But now, in the wake of this week's devastating chemical weapon attacks, it appears President Obama is growing more and more restless to act. The U.S., France and Britain are right now working in concert to verify tissue samples collected on the ground from separate, elaborate series of spy channels on the ground in Syria, according to The Wall Street Journal's Adam Entous, Siobahn Groman and Cassell Bryan-Low. They also allegedly have unseen video evidence showing the Syrian government is responsible for this week's chemical attacks.
Should those three countries come to a consensus pinning the attacks on the Assad regime, what would happen next is still unclear, but Obama will allegedly use NATO's 1998 air war in Kosovo as a precedent for an attack on the Syrian government. Citing a senior administration official, The New York Times' Mark Lander and Michael R. Gordon explain the eerie parallels between the two conflicts:
Kosovo is an obvious precedent for Mr. Obama because, as in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had longstanding ties to the government authorities accused of the abuses. In 1999, President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.
“It’s a step too far to say we’re drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”
The Syrian government contends the attack was carried out by the rebels, and they claim to have found evidence implicating as much in tunnels beneath Damascus. Russia also accused the rebels of carrying out a "provocative" attack in order to draw an international response, in part because of critical videos that appeared on the Internet prior to the attacks, according to Russia. That may not be the case, though, according to Landler and Gordon:
However, Mr. Lukashevich may have been confused by YouTube’s practice of time-stamping uploaded videos based on the time in its California headquarters, no matter the originating time zone. The attacks occurred early Wednesday in Syria, when it would still have been Tuesday in California for about eight more hours.
International time stamp confusion strikes again.
The legal process to justify a strike with NATO's cooperation would delay any military action for at least a few days, possibly a few weeks, so those naval ships positioned for an attack likely won't see any action this weekend. The President is expected to meet with his top advisors on Saturday.
But there are many consequences that must be weighed before the U.S. will even argue in favor of an attack, including "whether a military strike would have unintended consequences, destabilize neighbors like Lebanon, or lead to even greater flows of refugees into Jordan, Turkey and Egypt," according to Landler and Gordon. Bypassing Russia would also further damage the U.S.'s cold, rocky relationship with Moscow.