UN council clears path for action in Syria

Matthew Schofield

The question of western military action against the Syrian Regime moved from if to when overnight and this morning.

The conventional wisdom was that no attack would take place before the United Nations inspection team had left Syria; the team began its second day of work today.

U.N.'s special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Geneva Wednesday told reporters “it does seem like some kind of substance was used.” He went on to say that any action must have U.N. Security Council backing.

In London, the Prime Minister’s office said it has drafted a resolution for consideration by the United Nations Security Council “authorizing all necessary measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to protect civilians from chemical weapons. The resolution will be put forward at a meeting of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council later today in New York.”

The political governing body of NATO, the North Atlantic council, issued a statement saying the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated as it “is a clear breach of long-standing international norms and practice. Any use of such weapons is unacceptable and cannot go unanswered. Those responsible must be held accountable.”

The statement noted that NATO will continue to help Turkey protect in protecting what is called “the Alliance’s south-eastern border.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met in The Hague today with the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and asked for full cooperation with the UN.

The Guardian newspaper website in England reported that rich and powerful Syrians are fleeing Damascus for Lebanon, fearing an impending bombing campaign by the west. Some Russians are being evacuated as they face the increasing likelihood of a response to the alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack against rebels in a Damascus suburb.

Russia, which has expressed deep doubt about any attack on Syria in the coming days, evacuated about 200 Russian and regional citizens from Syria Tuesday.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted: “The West behaves towards the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade.”

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has criticized several times the “lack of alternative to a diplomatic solution" and said that "attempts for a military solution will lead only to a further destabilization of the situation in the country and the region.”

Those leaving had requested evacuation. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that more than 30,000 Russians remain in Syria.

Meanwhile, Israelis and others asked about the possibility of unintended consequences.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his inner circle to discuss Syria Wednesday morning, but details of that meeting were not known by late morning. The Israeli newspaper website Haaretz noted that while support for an attack on Syria is broad, it may be fragile.

“The international legitimacy is based on the belief that an attack by the U.S. (perhaps together with British and French forces) will be measured, clean and with a low number of losses. But past experience has already proven that there is no such thing as a clean attack with no losses.”

Still, a report on Israeli radio noted that the Iron Dome missile defense system has been put on alert. This was called the "first sign of increased vigilance towards an American attack in Syria." The report went on to note that the Israeli Defense Force believes the chances are low that Syria would actually retaliate against Israel for a U.S.-led attack. The report quoted an army spokesman as saying, There is no need to change your routine.

The Iranian Students’ News Agency reports that Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned the United States to watch over their “illegitimate child,” meaning Israel, when the attack happens.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran condemns any hasty and illegitimate attack by the US pursued by some regional states, and it warns that it will not be them who end the war, if they start any operation in Syria.”

An online terror watch organization noted that an alleged branch of al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant, and eight Syrian resistance groups, have vowed a “volcano of revenge” for the alleged Syrian chemical attacks, promising military actions against the “main joints” of the regime.

In Germany, Mainz University professor Guenter Meyer, a Syria expert, questioned the rush to implicate the Syrian government in chemical weapons use. He said Turkish police had arrested al Nusra members with two kilograms of sarin gas earlier this year. And he said evidence in the case of at least one previous alleged gas attack indicated that the Syrian government would not have been behind it, as those targeted were Assad supporters and regime soldiers.

“At this point, given the recent advances of the regime, the only side with strategic interest in using chemical weapons would be the rebels, in an attempt to get the west to step in against the regime,” he said.

$(window).resize(function(){ if($("#MidEastMap").width() >= 600){ $("#MidEastMap").height($("#MidEastMap").width()*.9); } else if($("#MidEastMap").width() >= 450){ $("#MidEastMap").height($("#MidEastMap").width()); } else if($("#MidEastMap").width() >= 350){ $("#MidEastMap").height($("#MidEastMap").width() * 1.1); } else { $("#MidEastMap").height($("#MidEastMap").width() * 1.5); } }); $(window).resize();

By Matthew Schofield
McClatchy Foreign Staff