The US is ready to go it alone on Syria, after close ally Britain failed to get parliamentary approval for a military intervention. But another ally, France, is standing firm.
“We are ready,” said the French president Francois Hollande in an interview to Le Monde on Friday. “We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies.”
A limited strike using scores of Tomahawk missiles appears imminent once UN inspectors complete their task of confirming the use of chemical weapons and leave Syria.
US lawmakers, who had demanded congress be consulted, received an unclassified briefing on Friday by secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and national security adviser Susan Rice.
But the White House insisted President Barack Obama had not made a decision yet. Once he decides, the administration is expected to make a legal case for the attack, revealing additional intelligence.
The administration insists there is no doubt the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on a large scale in the south of Damascus on August 21, killing over a thousand people.
Reports suggest the administration has intelligence tying the attacks to the Assad government — a phone call intercept of officials taken aback by the scale of the devastation.
Expecting Russia and China to prevent a resolution of the UN authorising military intervention, the Obama administration has been trying to put together an international coalition outside it.
That effort suffered a major setback Thursday when British prime minister David Cameron, the first leader Obama had called, failed to het his parliament’s support.
Canada and Australia are supportive, but not likely to contribute militarily. Neither will Germany. Obama called German chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.
But the White House let it be known on Friday, shortly after the British vote, the US was ready to go it alone, saying in a statement, “The US will continue to consult with the UK government — one of our closest allies and friends. As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States. He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”