Tension builds as US makes case on Syria

Updated
A United Nations (UN) arms expert collects samples as they inspect the site where rockets had fallen in Damascus' eastern Ghouta suburb during an...
A United Nations (UN) arms expert collects samples as they inspect the site where rockets had fallen in Damascus' eastern Ghouta suburb during an...
Photoby Ammar al-Arbini/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama and his British counterpart continued to make their case Thursday for a military strike on Syria, while also insisting that any action would be limited in scope.

Senior Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel are scheduled to brief congressional leaders Thursday evening on potential military plans, while President Obama said in an interview Wednesday that “we have not yet made a decision.”

“I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria,” Obama told PBS NewsHour anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff Wednesday, “but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable.”

President Obama delineated chemical weapon use by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as a “red line” last summer that, if crossed, would provoke unspecified U.S. action.

The administration is expected to release an unclassified intelligence assessment this week, possibly Thursday, detailing its evidence against the Assad regime, a case it has been making to international partners in more than 90 phone calls since the Aug. 21 chemical attack outside of Damascus.

The White House’s Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest  stressed that “there’s a lot of consultation” going on between the Obama administration, Congress, and leaders around the world during Thursday’s press briefing.

“The opinion of other world leaders in this matters,” he added.

Yet momentum in favor of military action, expected to take the form of cruise missile strikes, has slowed in recent days. Even as British Prime Minister David Cameron urged action, the British Parliament indicated Thursday that it would wait for information from United Nations weapons inspectors before making a decision on military action.

Cameron told an emergency session of parliament that the decision to strike Syria was nothing like the Iraq War where evidence that turned out to be false was used to justify the invasion.

“This is not like Iraq. What we are seeing in Syria is fundamentally different. We are not invading a country, we are not searching for chemical or biological weapons,” he said. “The fact the Syrian government has and has used chemical weapons is beyond doubt.”

The U.N. team is expected to brief the Security Council on Saturday. They remain in Syria examining evidence that a chemical attack was launched. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a cessation of hostilities while the team is on the ground and after a U.N. vehicle was shot at en route on the first day of inspections.

The two and a half year old Syrian civil war has claimed more than 100,000 thousand lives and displaces more than 2 million people, half of whom are children, according to the U.N.

Tension builds as US makes case on Syria

Updated