The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s friends and foes on Wednesday headed for a showdown at the United Nations, as Britain pushed for a resolution to pave the way for military strikes over suspected chemical attacks.
As the chorus grows for military action against Assad, UN special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi suggested that some kind of ‘substance’ was used in Syria that may have killed more than 1,000 people.
Brahimi did not say on what he based his information, but he did discuss the work of the UN team probing for evidence of the use of chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, as the US continued weighing options on Syria, it made clear that the response won’t be aimed at overthrowing Assad.
The response, most likely a quick military intervention involving scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles, will target military units involved in the August 21 chemical attacks.
An attack appears imminent but the aim will not be regime change. “I want to make clear that the options that we are considering are not about regime change,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
They will not target chemical weapons storage sites as that could trigger an environmental and humanitarian disaster, and leave them vulnerable to raids by terrorists. Targets would instead include military units that carried out the chemical attacks. The US has charged the Assad regime with crossing a red-line, and is considering a response in continuing consultations with allies such as the UK, France, Canada and Australia.
The response will be primarily punitive, to punish Syria for using chemical weapons, which the US has said, was a violation of an international norm agreed to by most countries.
EXPERTS IN DAMASCUS
On Wednesday, the UN inspectors visited the eastern Damascus suburbs of Mleeha and Zamalka, activists said. Amateur video showed a convoy of five cars with UN markings, followed by armed rebels in pickups.
The video showed the inspectors visiting a clinic and interviewing a man through a translator. Two inspectors were present as a nurse drew blood from a man lying on an exam table.