White House On Syria Response: If ‘Legal Justification Is Required.. We’ll Produce One’

Friday, August 30, 2013
By Paul Martin


WASHINGTON, Aug 29 (Reuters) – The United States is looking at a response to Syrian use of chemical weapons that is “very discrete and limited” and not open-ended, the White House said on Thursday, as President Barack Obama consulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel by phone.

The Obama White House rejected any attempt to compare U.S. plans for Syria to Republican President George W. Bush’s long-running war in Iraq that was justified on claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.

At the same time, the White House made a nuanced argument to suggest the United States might be willing to act on its own to enforce an international ban on the use of chemical weapons and protect U.S. national security interests.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama’s potential response to Syria’s Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack stood in stark contrast to the Iraq experience.

“What we’re talking about here is something very discrete and limited,” he said, and not an open-ended conflict aimed at regime change.

As senior U.S. officials prepared to brief congressional leaders on the latest Syria information, Obama spoke by phone to Merkel to update her on the situation. He has also spoken in recent days to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.

Amid questions abroad about whether other nations would join the United States if a decision is made to launch military action, Earnest noted that a variety of world leaders and organizations such as the Arab League have voiced outrage at the chemical weapons attack and want a response.

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

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