WASHINGTON D.C. – The White House signaled Thursday that President Barack Obama is ready to go it alone to strike Syria despite the British parliament’s rejection of military action and the lack of a UN mandate.
Aides said Obama believes that Syria must pay a price for breaking taboos on the use of chemical weapons, action which he sees as posing a grave threat to US national security.
US plans to build an international coalition for a “limited” strike on Syria suffered a devastating blow when the House of Commons in London voted against the use of force to punish a chemical weapons attack last week outside Damascus.
US officials signaled earlier Thursday that Obama would take unilateral action if necessary, but the possibility became a reality with the vote, which reverberated immediately across the Atlantic.
“We have seen the result of the parliament vote in the UK tonight,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “The US will continue to consult with the UK government — one of our closest allies and friends.
“As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.
“He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”
Thursday’s 272-285 nonbinding vote in the U.K. was a major blow to the president’s efforts to build an international coalition in advance of a strike against the regime of President Bashar Assad afer its suspected use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack last week.
The vote was also a sharp rebuke to Prime Minister David Cameron.
“It’s clear to me that the British parliament and the British people do not wish to see military action,” Cameron said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his country would remain on the sidelines of any military action as well.
“This is a very big risk and we do support our allies who are contemplating forceful action to deal with this,” Haper said, according to The Daily Star, in Toronto.
“That said, at the present time the government of Canada has no plans, we have no plans of our own, to have a Canadian military mission.”
And Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino also said Thursday her country wouldn’t join the military action without a United Nations mandate, The Hill reported.
Russia has said it’ll block any attempt to secure a Security Council vote for intervention.
“We have been trying to get the U.N. Security Council to be more assertive on Syria even before this incident,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told The New York Times.“The problem is that the Russians won’t vote for any accountability.”
The Times reported the White House intelligence that will be presented to congressional leaders Thursday night doesn’t tie Assad directly to the deadly attack outside Damascus.
But the administration believes the information is compelling enough to justify a limited strike, the newspaper said.
Only hours before the British Parliament’s stunning rejection, White House spokesman Josh Earnest had thanks top politicians there for their “strong words” following the alleged chemical weapons attack, The Hill reported.
“You’ve heard both the prime minister and the foreign secretary articulate their strong objection and condemnation of the use of chemical weapons,” Earnest said. “We’ve heard them talk about their desire to see the Assad regime be held accountable for its actions in carrying out this chemical weapons attack.”
But British Foreign Secretary William Hague sounded a cautious note Wednesday, saying the U.Sl would “make their own decisions” about intervention, The Hill reported.
“We will remain closely coordinated with them and in close in touch with them, as we are every day,” Hague said. “I speak to my counterpart Secretary Kerry every day and have done so this evening.”