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U.S. may take unilateral action against Syria

CNN News Wire | 8/30/2013, midnight
Syrian government forces seized control Wednesday, June 5, 2013 of the strategically important border city of Qusayr, which had been the site of nearly seven weeks of fighting.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government denies using the weapons against opposition forces and says its troops were the victims, not perpetrators, of recent gas attacks; but both British and U.S. officials say the rebels have no capability to use poison gas on the scale of the August 21 attack near Damascus, which opposition sources said killed more than 1,300.

“There is no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate the claims or the possession of CW by the opposition,” Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee concluded in a document released Thursday. “The JIC has therefore concluded that there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility.”

Cameron said the debate was not about regime change or invasion. And he said his government would not act without first hearing from the U.N. inspectors, giving the world body a chance to weigh in and giving Parliament another chance to vote.

But the prime minister said failing to act would give al-Assad the unmistakable signal that he could use poison gas “with impunity.” The British dossier on Syria also concluded the government had used chemical weapons on 14 previous occasions, and Cameron said al-Assad stepped up their use last week as a sort of test for the world.

The government said it could justify the use of force against Syria on humanitarian grounds, to stop the suffering, even if the United Nations declined to authorize a strike.

“The aim is to relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons,” the government said.

Syria’s government offered its own arguments against such an intervention. In an open letter to British lawmakers, the speaker of Syria’s parliament riffed on British literary hero William Shakespeare, saying: “If you bomb us, shall we not bleed?”

But in a veiled warning to the United Kingdom, the letter also invoked Iraq, a conflict justified on the grounds that Iraq had amassed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was working toward a nuclear bomb — claims that were discovered to have been false after the 2003 invasion.

“Those who want to send others to fight will talk in the Commons of the casualties in the Syrian conflict. But before you rush over the cliffs of war, would it not be wise to pause? Remember the thousands of British soldiers killed and maimed in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead, both in the war and in the continuing chaos.”

British Commons Speaker John Bercow published the letter. And al-Assad has vowed to defend his country against any outside attack.

“The threats of launching an aggression against Syria will increase its commitments to its rooted principles and its independent decision that originated from the will of its people, and Syria will defend itself against any aggression,” the Syrian president said Thursday in a speech to Yemeni politicians.

Obama faces calls for American vote on force

Across the Atlantic, Obama said in a televised interview Wednesday that he has no doubt Syria used chemical weapons on its own people. He said government claims that the opposition used them were impossible.