Syrian civil war in photos
August 27th, 2013
02:02 PM ET

What justifies intervening if Syria uses chemical weapons?

By Tim Lister

Why does the use of chemical weapons justify international retribution with military force, in a way that two years of brutal repression with tanks and planes does not? And where in international law is the legal "cover" for such action?

If the Obama administration is planning for limited military strikes against Syria to hold the regime "accountable" - in the words of senior officials - for using chemical weapons, it is probably drafting some answers to those questions.

The president put it like this in his CNN interview last week: "If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work?"

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'Red line' debate: Are chemical weapons in Syria worse than conventional attacks?
August 27th, 2013
01:58 PM ET

'Red line' debate: Are chemical weapons in Syria worse than conventional attacks?

By Josh Levs

The U.S. and international effort to respond to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria begs the question: Why intervene now, and not earlier in the civil war?

More than 100,000 people have died in the conflict, which has raged for more than two years.

There have been massacres. Populated areas have been bombed. Blasts have targeted people lining up for food at bakeries. People have been decapitated.

Millions of Syrians are displaced.

But a single, horrifying attack has crossed what U.S. President Barack Obama called a "red line." Rebel officials say more than 1,300 people, including many women and children, died recently as a result of chemical weapons.

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Filed under: Syria
August 27th, 2013
10:51 AM ET

Hagel: 'We're ready to go' if order comes on Syria response

By Chris Lawrence, Jill Dougherty and Tom Cohen

With a flurry of diplomatic signals and activity, U.S. officials sought Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a possible military attack on Syria in response to last week's suspected chemical weapons attack that Washington blames on President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry both consulted allies and indicated potential imminent action by a coalition likely to include key NATO partners and regional powers.

Days after the United States moved warships armed with cruise missiles into the region, Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday that forces were ready to carry out a strike if ordered. A senior Defense Department official told CNN that any strike could be completed "within several days."

"We are ready to go, like that," Hagel told the BBC reporter.

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