Britain to seek UN approval for strikes on Syria

posted at 8:41 am on August 28, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

As the Obama administration mulls its choices for intervention in Syria, one possible choice has seemingly been taken off the table — an UN resolution authorizing the US to use force in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.  Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made that clear yesterday:

The United States does not need the permission of the United Nations or any other international body for a military strike against Syria to retaliate for its use of chemical weapons against civilians, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday.

“No nation, no group of nations is bound by only one dimension of whether they’d make a decision to respond to any self-defense or any other violation of the kind of humanitarian violations that we saw in Syria,” he told the BBC.

The reason for eschewing the UN Security Council is obvious enough.  Neither Russia nor China will allow a resolution authorizing force against Syria, just as both nations have blocked any real action against Iran for secretly and then openly pursuing nuclear weapons, in violation of UN and IAEA treaties.  The UNSC is nothing more than a debating society where nothing of any substance gets accomplished about true threats, while the General Assembly mostly acts as a hysterical echo chamber for anti-Israel despots and human-rights abusers.

The UN envoy to Syria says that’s just too bad.  Only UN approval will give the US authority to respond to Syria’s use of WMDs:

“I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. That is what international law says,” [special UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi] told a press conference in Geneva.

“I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy. What they will decide I don’t know. But certainly international law is very clear.”

Brahimi isn’t the only UN official advising caution, either.  ABC’s Jon Williams reports that inspectors haven’t even finished their inspection, and would like a little more time to complete it and determine what happened:

If the Obama administration won’t go to the UN, our ally will do so in our place, apparently.  NPR’s Mark Memmott reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has drafted a resolution to authorize military action, and will propose it to the five veto-wielding members of the UNSC today:

Britain “has drafted a resolution condemning the chemical weapons attack by Assad & authorising necessary measures to protect civilians,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s office announced on its official Twitter page early Wednesday.

That resolution, Cameron’s office added, “will be put forward at a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council later today in New York.”

Now, as NPR’s Philip Reeves tells our Newscast Desk, attention will:

“Focus on what the options encompassed by the words ‘necessary measures.’ Cameron is trying to convince a skeptical parliament and public to support plans to join the U.S. in a military strike against President Assad’s regime. This faces resolute opposition from Russia and China — both permanent member of the Security Council. But by putting forward the resolution, Cameron can argue that he at least tried to get U.N. Security Council backing.”

In other words, Cameron needs the political cover, where Obama probably doesn’t.  The UN isn’t held in nearly as much respect in the US, but in Europe it’s a different matter.  If Cameron is seen as bypassing the UN in a similar manner as Obama, he and the Tories will reap a whirlwind of criticism.  That may be true even if Cameron tries and fails to get the UNSC to act, though, and possibly might not make much difference in the intensity of the anger.

One way or another, the strikes will come.  What will be the result? Marine General Anthony Zinni told the Washington Post that we don’t seem to learn much from recent history, and that we’re going to end up owning the Syrian civil war:

An imminent U.S. strike on Syrian government targets in response to the alleged gassing of civilians last week has the potential to draw the United States into the country’s civil war, former U.S. officials said Tuesday, warning that history doesn’t bode well for such limited retaliatory interventions.

The best historical parallels — the 1998 cruise missile strikes on targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan — are rife with unintended consequences and feature little success.

“The one thing we should learn is you can’t get a little bit pregnant,” said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was at the helm of U.S. Central Command when the Pentagon launched cruise missiles at suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan and weapons facilities in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. “If you do a one-and-done and say you’re going to repeat it if unacceptable things happen, you might find these people keep doing unacceptable things. It will suck you in.”

Yes, but we taught them a lesson, right?  Right? Well ….

Former U.S. officials said neither operation dealt much of a strategic setback to the targets. But they enraged many in the Muslim world, prompting angry demonstrations, including an attempted siege of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus by a mob that later ransacked the ambassador’s residence.

“We didn’t really gain anything,” said longtime U.S. diplomat Ryan C. Crocker, who was the ambassador in Damascus at the time. “The behavior of our adversaries did not change. A couple of cruise missiles are not going to change their way of thinking.”

The only way to change the behavior is to change the regime.  And that takes a massive invasion, a commitment to long-term rebuilding, counter-insurgency fighting that could take a decade or more, and the perseverance to see it all the way through.  We did the first three in Iraq, the middle two in Afghanistan, and couldn’t maintain the perseverance long enough.  We tried the remote-control shortcut in Libya and ended up with instant disaster.  That should teach us to stay out of these fights in the Middle East, especially between two sides that are both hostile to the US, and especially not to intervene on behalf of the side that’s openly conducting war against us. Instead, it looks like we prefer being a little bit pregnant.


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We have a president who considers the word victory jingoism, we are on the cusp of an epic disaster.

rob verdi on August 28, 2013 at 8:45 AM

Why does it have to be the US to do it? Are Britain and France willing to fight to the last American?

Liam on August 28, 2013 at 8:45 AM

What does the future ruler of the Democratic party (Clinton) think about all of this?

rob verdi on August 28, 2013 at 8:47 AM

“I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. That is what international law says,” [special UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi] told a press conference in Geneva.

And where was the UNSC on Libya? Is Dear Liar an international war criminal?

rbj on August 28, 2013 at 8:47 AM

And where was the UNSC on Libya? Is Dear Liar an international war criminal?

rbj on August 28, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Ah ah ah, a Nobel Peace Prize international war criminal.

That means its ok when Obama does it.

Gatsu on August 28, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Brahimi is well known to be sympathetic to the Assad regime… He has had long and strong relationship with the Assad regime back the father Hafez Al Assad…

mnjg on August 28, 2013 at 8:53 AM

“You can’t get a little bit pregnant.”

Ask Sandra Fluke. To some pregnancy is but a minor and temporary inconvenience.

meci on August 28, 2013 at 8:53 AM

On the cusp of the latest trail of tears.

docflash on August 28, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Dennis Kucinich says it best – “..striking Syria would turn the United States military into “al-Qaeda’s air force.”

Karmi on August 28, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Obama’s war

I don’t see Ws name anywhere in there lefties

Own it

cmsinaz on August 28, 2013 at 8:58 AM

I can say this my liberal acquaintances are not happy with 0 about this. They want no part of the US invading Syria. How long before they call it 0′s Iraq?

Bmore on August 28, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Reams of editorials to be published in leftist rags any second now about Obama’s illegal war. Any second now…

NotCoach on August 28, 2013 at 9:07 AM

Targeta and timing leaked….

The New York Times, quoting a Pentagon official, adds that “the initial target list has fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed.” ….Thus do the legal and moral requirements of secret military operations lose out in this Administration to the imperatives of in-the-know spin and political gestures. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney listens to questions about Syria and chemical weapons in Washington on Tuesday.It’s always possible that all of this leaking about when, how and for how long the U.S. will attack Syria is an elaborate head-fake, like Patton’s ghost army on the eve of D-Day, poised for the assault on Calais. But based on this Administration’s past behavior, such as the leaked bin Laden raid details, chances are most of this really is the war plan.Which makes us wonder why the Administration even bothers to pursue the likes of Edward Snowden when it is giving away its plan of attack to anyone in Damascus with an Internet connection. The answer, it seems, is that the attack in Syria isn’t really about damaging the Bashar Assad regime’s capacity to murder its own people, much less about ending the Assad regime for good.”I want to make clear that the options that we are considering are not about regime change,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. Translation: We’re not coming for you, Bashar, so don’t worry. And by the way, you might want to fly those attack choppers off base, at least until next week.So what is the purpose of a U.S. attack? Mr. Carney elaborated that it’s “about responding to [a] clear violation of an international standard that prohibitsthe use of chemical weapons.” He added that the U.S. had a national security interest that Assad’s use of chemical weapons “not go unanswered.” This is another way of saying that the attacks are primarily about making a political statement, and vindicating President Obama’s ill-considered promise”

“Factors weighing into the timing of any action include a desire to get it done before the president leaves for Russia next week,” reports CNN

Viator on August 28, 2013 at 9:07 AM

OT: wh leaking war plans no problem, snowden leaking info-outrage!
Via WSJ article on Drudge

cmsinaz on August 28, 2013 at 9:09 AM

Once again the inept anti-freedom UN is given power–given away stupidly by once sovereign nations just to cover their image, as if those doing evil ever care about their image. Think of our Alinsky-ites, who will take raw, “anyway you get there,” results and not care aabout who pretends to oppose them.

Who needs UN approval? These are the same people that seek to control the entire world, perhaps, in the long run they’re more dangerous than those terrorists, in part because their ranks are chuck full of their host countries. They seek to tax us and take away our freedom by taking away our guns.They have created the faux science of AGW for their own political ends.

Should we go into Syria? My major fear is starting a real big conflict with Russia, China,Iran, and Israel involves, with only Obama as our leader. Who needs to drink Kool-aid…?

Don L on August 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Lol Notcoach

Winner!

cmsinaz on August 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM

1 We are about to enter into an adventure because the the worst president in history started playing a game of macho-chicken with red line crossings, dude.
2 No matter who wins the war (The Iranian-Russian-Assad Team or the Successors To The World Trade Center Terrorist Al Qaeda Team) it will be the WRONG SIDE.
3 To satisfy his macho, dude, Obama will probably pitch a few cruise missiles into Syria killing 15 civilians and a goat–and then backing off, declaring “victory”, and doing a “check me out” victory lap.
4 In retaliation Hezbollah (and maybe Assad) will pitch dozens of missiles into Israel. Who knows what Israel will do.
5 The stock market will plunge and oil prices will spike.

And all because a fool drew a line in the sand.

MaiDee on August 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM

This is going to end very badly.

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on August 28, 2013 at 9:12 AM

“I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy. What they will decide I don’t know. But certainly international law is very clear.”

Not trigger happy? Is he just saying that to be tactful?

Fenris on August 28, 2013 at 9:12 AM

1 We are about to enter into an adventure because the the worst president in history started playing a game of macho-chicken with red line crossings, dude.
2 No matter who wins the war (The Iranian-Russian-Assad Team or the Successors To The World Trade Center Terrorist Al Qaeda Team) it will be the WRONG SIDE.
3 To satisfy his macho, dude, Obama will probably pitch a few cruise missiles into Syria killing 15 civilians and a goat–and then backing off, declaring “victory”, and doing a “check me out” victory lap.
4 In retaliation Hezbollah (and maybe Assad) will pitch dozens of missiles into Israel. Who knows what Israel will do.
5 The stock market will plunge and oil prices will spike.

And all because a fool drew a line in the sand.

MaiDee on August 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM

And that is one of the better case scenarios.

rob verdi on August 28, 2013 at 9:15 AM

So, here we are, Americans. Sitting on the precipice, looking down into the Abyss, of a possible World War III. President Barack Hussein Obama’s Smart Power! has been a colossal failure, if its purpose was to keep the peace in the Middle East. If The purpose of Obama’s Smart Power was replacing Moderate Muslim Leadership with Radical Islamacists, through violent revolution, the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians, and the loss of scores of human lives, than Smart Power! has been an unqualified success.

Now the Leader of America’s Regime, wants to involve us in the Civil War happening in Syria, because their president has been accused of launching a chemical attack against his own citizens.

Just a thought: If he goes through with this, what is Obama going to say if it turns out that al Qaeda launched the chemical attack? “Oops?”

kingsjester on August 28, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Where is the proof that it was in fact Assad that used the chems? I hate to say it but based on O’s behavior these past few years it almost seems like he’s defending Al-Q. Hope I’m wrong but nothing about this man shocks me anymore.

Key West Reader on August 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM

One way or another, the strikes will come. What will be the result? Marine General Anthony Zinni told the Washington Post that we don’t seem to learn much from recent history, and that we’re going to end up owning the Syrian civil war

Obama’s third war will not begin until at least tomorrow. He will do nothing that steps on the racist coalition that is gathering on the National Mall this afternoon to utterly distort what Dr. King was saying. The most ironic being Oprah, victim of racism since somebody told her no, speaking about how we still haven’t fulfilled the vision of Dr. King’s speech.

Happy Nomad on August 28, 2013 at 9:18 AM

So what is the purpose of a U.S. attack?

Viator on August 28, 2013 at 9:07 AM

A little voice inside me keeps wondering. Is this thing, at least in part, a convenient opportunity (crisis=opportunity in Chicago-speak) to put public distance between Obama from Putin (as they scowl and wink at each)so that their cozy little nuke deal can continue unsuspectantly.
In the end, that may prove more deadly than just another little Mid-east conflict.

Don L on August 28, 2013 at 9:18 AM

The UNSC is nothing more than a debating society where nothing of any substance gets accomplished about true threats, while the General Assembly mostly acts as a hysterical echo chamber for anti-Israel despots and human-rights abusers.

Well said! The UN Security Council is the ultimate oxymoron, and the General Assembly nothing other than the bar scene in Star Wars. That we are still a member of the UN or give it a dollar of taxpayer funds or even permit its presence on US soil is a slap in the face of everyone who ever served to defend this nation.

TXUS on August 28, 2013 at 9:19 AM

This is going to end very badly.

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on August 28, 2013 at 9:12 AM

That’s the plan…

fortcoins on August 28, 2013 at 9:19 AM

And all because a fool drew a line in the sand.

MaiDee on August 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM

This is the ONLY possible explanation for his behavior. Take the keys away, put him in time out – bus tour or something.

And, Do not forget O’s War on American Generals

Frightening.

Key West Reader on August 28, 2013 at 9:20 AM

This is going to end very badly.

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on August 28, 2013 at 9:12 AM

And we need to be clear that this is Obama’s war. He bought it, he killed innocent civilians and ultimately (IMO) US military personnel. Not even accounting for terror attacks on Americans and Israelis as a result of Captain Kickass refusing to admit that his foreign policy sucks.

Happy Nomad on August 28, 2013 at 9:20 AM

And all because a fool drew a line in the sand.

MaiDee on August 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM

I do get the sense that at least part of this rush to bomb something comes from the fact that Assad dared defy our thin-skinned tyrant. The chemical attack in Syria, while deplorable, does not merit the quick and swift “strategic bombing” that seems to be in the works. And if not for regime change, to what end. And if regime change occurs, what then?

It is as if Obama wants Al Qaeda in charge of yet a third middle eastern nation that abuts Israel.

Happy Nomad on August 28, 2013 at 9:23 AM

Just a thought: If he goes through with this, what is Obama going to say if it turns out that al Qaeda launched the chemical attack? “Oops?”

kingsjester on August 28, 2013 at 9:15 AM

That GOP pressure to go in made me do it…..?

Don L on August 28, 2013 at 9:25 AM

“I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. That is what international law says,” [special UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi] told a press conference in Geneva.

So what.
That there is a whole lot of nothing.

Says nothing about US taking unilateral action.

Jabberwock on August 28, 2013 at 9:38 AM

“I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy.

I keep hearing this from various people and remain baffled by it. Attacking Libya without Congressional approval and over the objections of not only Pentagon lawyers, but his own WH counsel? More than 3x as many drone strikes as President Bush had, in half the time? A policy allowing for the killing of U.S. citizens overseas without a trial if they were engaged in “activities” against the United States and “probably” haven’t abandoned them? I can’t be the only person who remembers this.

JeremiahJohnson on August 28, 2013 at 9:43 AM

The best historical parallels — the 1998 cruise missile strikes on targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan — are rife with unintended consequences and feature little success.

No! The best historical parallel is the first Iraq War of 1990 followed by the no fly zone and the second Iraq War, all of which built up the jihadist movement

burt on August 28, 2013 at 9:44 AM

It is a runaway train wreck that you can see coming from miles away and no one has the ability to stop it. They have lit the fuse and we just are waiting for the explosion. If it weren’t so tragic, it would almost be funny as even those of us that aren’t Blessed with Smart Power can see this coming and yes, it will not end well.

Deano1952 on August 28, 2013 at 9:45 AM

The best historical parallels — the 1998 cruise missile strikes on targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan — are rife with unintended consequences and feature little success.

You mean Clinton’s Desert Shield me from Impeachment?

Gatsu on August 28, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Truly a sad day for America when our armed forces are being pressed into service to rescue the failing reputation of a weak president.

slickwillie2001 on August 28, 2013 at 9:54 AM

I hate to say it but based on O’s behavior these past few years it almost seems like he’s defending Al-Q.

Key West Reader on August 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM

defending? heck he’s giving them their biggest victories and you are seeing it right. He installed them in Libya, he is backing their Egyptian counterparts in the MB and he’s siding with them again in Syria. Are we to believe liberals and democrats are okay with all of this?

DanMan on August 28, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Just a thought: If he goes through with this, what is Obama going to say if it turns out that al Qaeda launched the chemical attack? “Oops?”

kingsjester on August 28, 2013 at 9:15 AM

All add a “what if” or two.

The administration is claiming that they have certitude it was Assad based on intercepted phone calls. What if they had prior knowledge of these chemical attacks and did nothing? Could this have been the event that caused the State Department to close all those embassies?

Where did these chemical weapons come from? What if it turns out these are the stockpile that came from Iraq just prior to the invasion in 2003?

Happy Nomad on August 28, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Chuck Hagel now;

The United States does not need the permission of the United Nations or any other international body for a military strike against Syria to retaliate for its use of chemical weapons against civilians, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday.

Chuck Hagel before;

Early in the testimony, the Iraq war and President George W. Bush’s 2007 surge of U.S. troops into Iraq became the heated focus of the hearing.

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., repeatedly pressed Hagel, a fellow Vietnam War veteran, on whether he had been right or wrong to say that the 2007 surge was “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam.”

When McCain angrily said “Will you please answer the question?” Hagel told McCain “I’m not going to give you a yes or no answer … I’ll defer that judgment to history.”

The “most dangerous foreign policy since Vietnam” will be intervening in Syria without a clear casus belli, UN Resolution that seemed so important to Democrats when the president was from another party and largely based on a political decision to raise Mr. Obama’s profile.

If we are to believe the rhetoric from Syria and their supporters, we will now put our soldiers, civilians and other countries at risk with no clear goal in mind, no plan for ensuring any potential future government is not more corrupt than the current (which is becoming a defining theme of the Obama Doctrine) and little consideration for potential affects on the region. All in a feeble attempt to pump up Mr. Obama’s image and distract from a miserable 6 years of failed policies, divisive rhetoric and government corruption.

This entire sordid affair stinks of dishonesty and incompetence.

Marcus Traianus on August 28, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Wait, Obama will have his own illegal war legacy?

ButterflyDragon on August 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Not if the lsm can help it butterfly dragon

cmsinaz on August 28, 2013 at 10:13 AM

In warfare you have to put yourself into the mind of the enemy. Assad (if indeed a. chemical weapons have been used and b. Assad, not the rebels,have been using them) knows that even precision bombing cannot take away Syria’s poison gas potential. Boots on the ground would have to do that. The bombing, without the troops-on-the-ground follow up, could seriously damage Assad’s air potential but leave his chemical weapons largely unscathed—giving him EVEN MORE REASON TO USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS because they will replace air power as his number one weapon.

The bottom line is an attack on Syria which leaves his chemical weapons untouched will increase the probability that Assad will rely on them for defense.

MaiDee on August 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Where did these chemical weapons come from? What if it turns out these are the stockpile that came from Iraq just prior to the invasion in 2003?

Happy Nomad on August 28, 2013 at 9:57 AM

They had them from the USSR during the Cold War.

burt on August 28, 2013 at 10:28 AM

When things don’t really make sense, then something else is going on…

albill on August 28, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Something that is being ignored here.

Yeah, Cameron is going to the UN. But he has also done something that our Nomenklatura refuses to do.

The British Parliament has insisted on being recalled from recess back to session [and Cameron has done it] so they can approve or disapprove any British attack on Syria.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10268325/MPs-recalled-to-Parliament-to-vote-on-Syrian-crisis-David-Cameron-says.html

Princeps Buraq Hussein-I [BPUH] feels no need to submit himself to the Constitution or the Congress. After all, what role does our own Supreme Soviet play in real affairs?

Subotai Bahadur on August 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM

So, Great Britain wants a little breathing room. If Obama delays the air strikes until September 3, that will be just when he is leaving for Russia for the G20 summit. That should be fun! “Hey, Vladimir, how are you doing? Yeah, I just lobbed a few dozen Tomahawk missiles on your pal Assad’s military installations. Didn’t I tell you I would be more flexible after my reelection?”

Colony14 on August 28, 2013 at 8:17 PM