Syria: Is Western military intervention inevitable?
US and UK warships said to be on their way to Syria following alleged chemical attacks by Assad regime
A WEEK after alleged chemical attacks killed more than 1,300 people outside Damascus, a US-led military intervention in the Syrian civil war is looking more likely. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vehemently denied responsibility for the attacks but the US and UK say there is "little doubt" that his regime was to blame. During a 40-minute phone call over the weekend, David Cameron and Barack Obama discussed the possibility of military action. But international opinion remains divided on what should be the next move...
Is military intervention inevitable? The US and UK rhetoric over Syria has been heating up. Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that Britain faces a choice between military strikes or allowing tyrants to use chemical weapons "with impunity". Last night, US Secretary of State John Kerry described last week's attack as a "moral obscenity" and added that the US has made clear that chemical weapons cannot be used "without consequences". However, any concrete plans for military action are yet to be confirmed.
What form would military intervention take? Analysts predict that the most likely action would be sea-launched cruise missiles targeting Syrian military installations. Sending in ground troops appears to have been ruled out, as has a no-fly zone, with the Syrian air force believed to be strong enough to shoot down enemy jets. Three US warships are reportedly in the region and another is heading to the area. According to the Daily Telegraph, British Royal Navy vessels are also being prepared for a possible series of cruise missile strikes. Insiders have said that, if approved, the first wave of missiles could start within a week.
Doesn't military intervention need UN backing? The UN Security Council is divided on how it should respond. Syria's allies, Russia and China, oppose military intervention and say the UK and US lack evidence that Assad's regime was responsible for last week's attacks. Russia has said the use of military force by the West without approval of the UN "is a very grave violation of international law". However, the UK and France are convinced the UN can be bypassed if there is "great humanitarian need".
Does military intervention risk escalation? Commentators have warned of retaliation from Syria and its allies should the West step in. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, warned of "perilous consequences for the region" if the West launch a military attack. Meanwhile, Israeli media claim Syrian officials have threatened retaliation against Israel for any Western strikes. In response, Israeli ministers warned they would hit back at any Syrian reprisals. Russia's language has been more tentative, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov saying his country is "not planning to go to war with anyone".
What does the rest of the UK think? Politicians have demanded Parliament be recalled this week so they can discuss the issue. MPs and public figures are divided on the prospect of military intervention: some argue that there is no choice except to intervene, while others say the potentially enormous costs outweigh the limited gains. UKIP leader Nigel Farage is strongly against intervention, saying it was not for Brits to "act as world policemen". Tony Blair has also weighed into the debate, saying military intervention was vital to prevent a "breeding ground for extremism". A YouGov survey of 2,000 Britons suggested there was little public support for military action. Only nine per cent were in favour of sending British troops to fight in Syria, with 74 per cent against. ·