Syria latest: Obama set to attack despite falling support
Blocked at the UN by Russia and stripped of British backing, US President still ready to launch assault
THE US is facing the prospect of attacking Syria without UN approval and without the support of its closest ally following last night's defeat of a Commons motion approving Britain's involvement.
The New York Times says President Obama is prepared to "move ahead with a limited military strike on Syria" without British involvement. But the paper says parliament's emphatic rejection of an armed response is also a setback for Obama who is "struggling" to assemble a coalition of allies after failing to get the UN Security Council to authorise a strike.
Even before last night's vote in London, Obama had reportedly given up hope of overcoming the objections of Russia – President Assad's staunchest ally – to any resolution in the UN Security Council.
White House sources made it clear that "eroding support" for a strike would not necessarily stay the president's hand. Pentagon officials said the US Navy now has five destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. Each vessel carries dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles that would "probably be the centrepiece of any attack on Syria".
Russia is also bolstering its presence in the region by dispatching an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to the Mediterranean.
There is speculation a US attack may come as soon as this weekend. The New York Times says "all indications" suggest it would come hard on the heels of the departure from Syria of UN weapons inspectors. They are due to fly out of Damascus on Saturday.
The Washington Post says Obama has the "authority and determination" to go it alone over Syria. But it points out that the president's position has become more difficult as "more time has elapsed between the Syrian attack and the much-previewed US retaliation". The paper says the "window for questions and demands [about the legitimacy of an attack] from Congress, international allies and the news media" has opened wider.
Almost 200 House members from both parties have signed letters calling on the president to seek formal congressional approval for military action. ·