Since the chemical attack which took place in the Eastern Ghouta region on 21-August the U.S has been urging the world to respond. This article attempts to review where major nations stand on military intervention.
On 29-August the U.K government published internal legal advice which it said showed it is legally entitled to take military action against Syria, even if the United Nations Security Council blocks such action.
“If action in the Security Council is blocked, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures in order to alleviate the scale of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in Syria,” a copy of the government’s legal position reads. Contrary to the announcement in a debate on the same day, Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament it was “unthinkable” that the U.K would launch military action against Syria if there was strong opposition at the Security Council.
Later that day parliament voted against authorizing military action in Syria; with 285 to 272 votes. The vote dealt Prime Minister David Cameron an unexpected blow although the vote was non-binding in practice the rejection of military strikes means Cameron’s hands are tied.
Cameron has continued to push for intervention. On 30-August, Cameron said that he regretted the failure of parliament to approve action but the U.K will to take a case to the United Nations. A “robust response” to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria is needed despite UK military involvement being ruled out.
“We will continue to take a case to the United Nations, we will continue to work in all the organisations we are members of – whether the EU, or Nato, or the G8 or the G20 – to condemn what’s happened in Syria.”
President Francois Hollande has said that the alleged chemical attacks in Damascus “must not remain unpunished”.
President Francois Hollande
He told the Le Monde newspaper on 30-Aug that while he was not in favor of “an international intervention that aims at ‘liberating’ Syria or overthrow the dictator,” he did think “a halt needs to be brought to a regime that commits irreparable harm on its population”.
Mr Hollande said the U.K. vote on 29-August made no difference to France’s position; Hollande is not constrained by the need for parliamentary approval of any move to intervene in Syria.
“Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for the U.K. as it is for France,” he said.
He said that if the UN Security Council was unable to act, a coalition would form including the Arab League and European countries.
“France will be part of it. France is ready.”
On 30-August German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle added Germany to the list of countries that would not be engaging in military action.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated that the use of chemical weapons in Syria had “broken a taboo” which “cannot remain without consequence”.
However, she categorically excluded German participation in any military action without prior approval from the international community.
“Germany cannot participate in any military intervention without a mandate from the United Nations, NATO or the EU,” she said.
Westerwelle told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper that such action had “neither been asked nor is being considered by us,” according to comments pre-released by the paper.
“We are pushing for the United Nations Security Council to find a common position and for the work of UN inspectors to be finished as quickly as possible,” he added.
Merkel has hit out at Russia and China over their stance in the Syrian crisis, saying in an interview published on 31-August that their action weakened the United Nations.
“Those who look away despite the use of chemical weapons … encourage their use. That is why we are calling on Russia to send a signal along with the international community,” Westerwelle said in a separate interview published on 1-September in Welt am Sonntag weekly.
Russia objects to international intervention, after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the case for ascribing culpability to the Syrian government at this time, adding that foreign military intervention would lead to “the destabilization of the country and the region”.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has demanded that the U. S. provide any evidence of the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians to the UN Security Council.
The Russian leader said evidence must be provided to the U.N. and denounces the idea that the Syrian government carried out the 21-August gas attack as “nonsense”.
Speaking to reporters on 31-August, Putin told journalists that it would be “utter nonsense” for the Syrian government to have used such weapons.
“Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions. In these conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for a military intervention is utter nonsense,” Putin told reporters in Vladivostok.
On 4-September Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a liar, claiming he had denied that al Qaeda was fighting with the Syrian opposition in that country’s civil war.
“This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans) and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that allegations that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons last month are a “pretext” by the West to attack the country.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
“The United States is wrong about Syria, and it is certain they will suffer… just like in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Khamenei told members of the Assembly of Experts, the body that supervises his work, on 5-September.
Any military action against Syria will have consequences beyond the region and leave Israel in flames, Iran’s army chief of staff General Hassan Firouzabadi said in remarks reported on 29-August.
“Any military action against Syria will drive the Zionists to the edge of fire,” Firouzabadi said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.
The chief of Iran’s elite Quds Force unit, Qassem Soleimani, said Tehran would back Syria “until the end” in the face of possible US-led military strikes.
“The aim of the United States is not to protect human rights… but to destroy the front of resistance against Israel.”
Aljazeera Article “US to continue to seek Syria strike support”
BBC Article “France’s Hollande backs US on Syria action”
Aljazeera Article “Putin demands US provide Syria attack proof”
Aljazeera Article “Iran says US will suffer if Syria is attacked”