The Obama administration is considering a limited missile strike against the Assad regime as early as Thursday. It would not be without precedent for the U.S. to go ahead with the strike without UN approval.
Britain is urging the United Nations Security Council to authorize the “necessary measures to protect civilians” in Syria after Western allies, including the United States, accused President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of using chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds and wounded thousands last week.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said a draft resolution condemning the attack would be presented to the five permanent members of the Security Council as they met in New York Wednesday morning.
The Obama administration is considering a limited missile strike against Assad as early as Thursday. It would not be without precedent for it to go ahead with the strike without UN approval, but some speculation has suggested the U.S. would wait until the UN inspectors now on the ground investigating the site of the most recent suspected chemical weapons attack have left.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged world powers to respect their safety. One of the vehicles for the U.N. team was shot at by an unknown sniper during their first day of inspections on the outskirt of Damascus. The U.N. team is expected to depart on Sunday.
In recent days, the U.S. has huddled with allies, placing more than 80 phone calls to leaders around the world in an effort to rally support for retaliatory measures toward Assad’s regime that is engaged in an ongoing civil war that has left more than 100,000 Syrians dead and millions more displaced.
The Arab League on Tuesday joined the U.S. and allies in blaming Assad for the chemical weapons attack launched on Aug. 21, but fell short of endorsing military action.
The U.N. and Arab Lague envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, told reporters in Geneva Wednesday, “I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that U.S. military intervention “will lead to the long-term destabilization of the situation in the country and the region,” on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that the U.S. military is prepared to act.
“The options are there, and the United States Department of Defense is ready to carry out those options,” Hagel said. He stressed, as has the White House, that action would occur “in coordination with international partners.”
The British Parliament is expected to vote Thursday on possible military action as well.
Notably, foreign travels will keep President Obama away from the White House beginning Tuesday and through next week, as he first visits Stockholm, then St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit. A strike while Obama is on Russian turf would strain an already tense relationship, after Obama canceled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid controversy over harboring fugitive U.S. national security leaker Edward Snowden.
Andrea Mitchell contributed reporting to this article.