First you say we will, and then we don't. Then you say we're not alone but slowly support fades away. We're undecided now. What are we going to do? How should we respond to the news out of Syria?
The initial reports stated that a chemical weapon was used in Syria. Each side in the Syrian civil war is pointing fingers at the other side. Clearly this is a violation of the chemical weapons agreement that 188 countries have signed if the reports are true. In view of the casualties, the presumption must be that a chemical weapon was used. Doctors without Borders have reported numbers of those killed and injured in the attack.
The next step is to determine who launched the attack. WND has evidence that casts doubt on Obama's assertions that Assad is responsible. They have videos purporting to show the rebels firing gas canisters. In addition, there is an intercepted phone call that indicates a Syrian defense chief was demanding an explanation from its chemical weapons unit for any action. There is no indication what the response was.
The US was promised support by the UK, France and Turkey. Everyone has backed off. UK's Parliament voted against supporting an attack against Syria. That seems to have prompted France to say they will wait until after the UN completes their investigation. Turkey seems to have kept mum. So although there were 188 signatories to the convention, no one is willing to step up and join us in an attack.
The big question is Why now? Why are we saying this time you have gone too far? The conflict in Syria has already left around 100,000 dead and forced more than one and a half million Syrians to flee the country. Obama drew the red line last year. There were reports of chemical weapons being used earlier this year but Obama did nothing. In June the administration said that our intelligence services had high confidence that the weapons had been used and that the US would send unspecified aid to the opposition. All along, the US has said that its goal was not to depose Assad, just to gain his attention and get him to stop the use of chemical weapons.
There does not appear to be a clear and present danger to the United States from Syria at this time. If the UN Security Council doesn't recommend an attack, our strike against Assad may be illegal under international law. The only legal way to go to war is in self-defense and that claim is difficult to make. Russia has told Obama to back off. Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino says Italy will not back any military action unless it is authorized by the Security Council. Germany seeks proof that the Syrian government was behind the attack. Since it faces elections soon, it is unlikely they would commit any forces even with proof.
The Arab League called an emergency meeting. They urged the members of the Security Council to agree on deterrent measures. They called for all involved in this crime to be given a fair international trial like other war criminals. In fact, there is an International Criminal Court at the Hague that could handle this. Since it is international, countries are more likely to support a decision by this court.
The UN is stating that it may take more than 14 days to determine what chemical weapons were used. Secretary of State John Kerry says it is sarin gas. And actually, that may be the most likely culprit. But he has not explained how we know which side launched the gas attack. President Obama is asking Congress to debate the issue and vote on which action they think we should do. Do we strike or do we hold off?
Since Israel is believed to have a network of spies within Syria, their intelligence reports are given more credibility than those of the CIA and NSA. They have said publicly that the chemical attack was by forces loyal to Assad. They have reported that the division that fired the rockets were under the command of Assad's brother, Maher Assad. On the other hand, a former CIA officer with long Middle East experience advised skepticism of purported leaked intercepts. The officer admits that Israel has superior coverage of Syria. If they leaked an actual conversation they overheard, this would affect their effectiveness.
People are divided in opinion. Obama supporters appear to be backing him on this issue as well. The Republicans, remembering the whole Iraq episode, are saying let's get proof of the facts before we decide on what we should do. They question whether the US has an obligation to be the policeman of the world. If we act against Syria without the support of other countries, what happens if Syria manages to lob short range missiles at our warships and sinks one of them? Do we then put boots on the ground?
The Intercepted Phone Calls that Convinced Obama that Syria Used Nerve Gas
Slate Magazine (blog) - by Josh Voorhees
Evidence: Syria gas attack work of U.S. allies - WorldNetDaily
Syria crisis: US spies certain Assad used nerve gas 'after ... - Daily Mail
Syrian envoy alleges rebel gas attack, demands U.N. investigate ...
US, UK Face Delays in Push to Strike Syria
Wall Street Journal
Momentum grows for military action against Syria
Israel lobby silent on Syria
Politico-by Anna Palmer
Israel may have intercepted Syrian discussions about chemical attack
Los Angeles Times
Obama leaving door open to Syria strike, even if Congress votes no ...
Obama's request for congressional approval on a Syria strike marks "retreat," Syrian state media says