Despite a British Parliament that has now ruled out the possibility of military intervention on the part of the UK in regards to the Syrian crisis (a serious blow to the conservative government of PM David Cameron, whose own party voted against the resolutions), the United States has not decisively stated whether or not it will intervene militarily in Syria given the mounting evidence that the Assad regime has been systematically utilizing chemical weapons. President Obama stated on Thursday that the United States will act in its “best interests”, remaining vague as to what that could entail but continuing with preparations for a possible air strike against Assad.
Despite the vote undertaken by the British Parliament and the subsequent veto of the military resolution by the MPs, President Holland of France remains undeterred in his resolve to intervene militarily in Syria, stating that he would not rule out the possibility of an airstrike as early as next Tuesday. A UN chemical weapons team has arrived in rebel-held Syria and protests both for and against intervention in the conflicts have erupted throughout the area. British diplomatic families are being evacuated from Lebanon in anticipation of violent anti-Western protests in the country.
Though it is not clear as to the exact parameters being set by the Obama administration in regards to a possible military strike against the Assad regime, the Obama administration has characterized the possible intervention as merely as “shot across the bow”, a surgical missile strike aimed at coercing the Assad government to desist in the utilization of sarin, a deadly nerve gas which is believed to have been weaponized by the Syrian regime. The White House insisted that the strike would not be linked to its larger diplomatic goal of a transition to a post-Assad government in Syria.
The proposed strike would take place with the utilization of the four US Navy Arleigh Burke-Class destroyers stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, each of which carries 3 cruiser missiles. The heaviest fighting in the Syrian civil war is occurring in the western region of the country bordering Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan closest to the Mediterranean Sea. The fighting is particularly concentrated in the major urban areas of Damascus and Aleppo.
Refugees from Syria are flooding into the bordering countries of Pakistan, Jordan, and Turkey and UN estimates place the death toll at over 10,000 since the beginning of the conflict. Despite this, public support in much of the Western world for a military intervention in the country is still quite low given the recent operations undertaken by the major powers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the substantial amount of evidence that the Assad regime has been committing major war crimes in the course of the conflict, the international governance apparatus continues to stall on a kinetic response despite much stick-brandishing towards the regime.
The Russian government, a supporter of the current Syrian regime and opposed to any military intervention in the area by outside powers, met the rejection of armed incursion by the British Parliament with applause. The issue has caused a widening rift between the already stretched Russian-American relationship.
Within the US government, concerns remain about providing assistance to the rebels involved in the conflict against Assad, fearing the presence of al-Qaeda or other terrorist organizations embedded in the Free Syria Army. Additionally, any American military action would necessarily have to take into account Iran, Syria’s major regional ally and a country with serious and longstanding hostility towards the West.
Despite these concerns, however, we may realistically see the opening salvos of an American military campaign against Assad as early as next Thursday.