Syria Defiant: "We Will Defend Ourselves Using All Means Available"

A day after Secretary of State John Kerry called last week's alleged chemical attack on Syrian civilians a "moral obscenity," Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem challenged the U.S. to provide evidence of chemical warfare, and said the country will defend itself "using all means available" in the event of a U.S. strike.

Such an attack seems likelier than ever now that the Obama administration has ordered the release of a report justifying a strike in the absence of U.N. support, as Taylor Berman writes below. The strike would likely involve cruise missiles fired at Syrian military installations, with the aim of punishing or ousting the regime of President Bashar al Assad. "Surgical strikes" of this nature would likely not put any U.S. troops in harm's way—but could also be among the least effective measures at ending or stopping Assad's use of chemical weapons.

Though the U.S. has, with significant evidence, essentially decided that the hundreds of civilians who died in a Damascus suburb last week were killed by Assad's chemical weapons, the U.N. hasn't been able to confirm—because the team of inspectors sent to the site has been turned back by sniper fire, and is now being delayed by a day to improve its chances of safe passage.

If the U.S. decided to go ahead with a strike without U.N. support (China and Russia, both on the security council, are still allied with Assad), it would likely be joined by the U.K., whose parliament was recalled today for "urgent discussion" on Syria, France, Turkey, Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Obama Orders Release of Report Justifying Air Strike in Syria

Sometime in the next day or two, the Obama administration will release a declassified report justifying a U.S. military strike in Syria, according to CBS News. The news comes just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry held a press conference in which he described last week's chemical attacks in Syria as an "obscenity” that “defy any code of morality."

The CBS News report describes a meeting of Obama's national security team that took place on Saturday. The meeting reportedly included “detailed analysis” of evidence about the chemical attacks that provides “a near air-tight circumstantial case that the Syrian regime was behind it.”

From CBS News:


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.

And if/when Obama launches an attack, the U.S. is already well-positioned; there are four Navy warships stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, on-call to launch cruise missiles within hours of receiving Obama's orders, and a British submarine is reportedly stationed nearby. Any strike would likely be limited in scope, according to a report in the New York Times

Administration officials said that although President Obama had not made a final decision on military action, he was likely to order a limited military operation — cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea at military targets in Syria, for example — and not a sustained air campaign intended to topple Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, or to fundamentally alter the nature of the conflict on the ground.

[Image via AP]


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