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Dhaka Tribune

Kerry calls for military action despite complications in coalition-building

Update : 30 Aug 2013, 09:12 PM

US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday made a broad case for limited military action against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons, saying it could not go unpunished for such a “crime against humanity.”

Kerry also stressed that anything the United States might do will not in any way resemble the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, nor its intervention to help topple former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

“It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway,” Kerry said of any action President Barack Obama might pursue.

“Any action that he might decide to take will be (a) limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable,” he added in a televised speech at the US State Department.

But the wind seems to have come out of the sails of an attack on Syria slightly, following the vote in the UK parliament, which sees Britain out of the running to join any coalition that intends to punish Bashar Al Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons.

France’s Hollande, who doesn’t need the French parliament’s nod to authorise military action is still eager, yet his language is guarded, and couched in phrases like “inflicting a sanction by the appropriate means.”

Nato has categorically ruled out playing a part in any military action against Syria; Italy and Germany have also refused to get involved and even Poland, a minor US ally, which accused the Russians of supplying Assad with chemical weapons, has decided not to commit forces.

The US is struggling to build an international coalition and has even gone as far as to say that it will strike Syria unilaterally if needed, yet it still seems more interested in finding partners.  Chuck Hagel, US Defence Secretary has said the Obama administration is interested in “international collaboration and effort.”

Syria has vowed to defend itself and Iran has signalled its willingness to stand by it and has threatened action against Israel if Syria is attacked, driven, as it says, by “the flames of outrage.”

US public opinion is not in favour of a military strike and reflects Kerry statement, “after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war.”

But he added: “Fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history will judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye.”

Stressing the need for public support, Kerry stated:  “We will continue talking to the Congress, talking to our allies and, most importantly, talking to the American people,” adding, “President Obama will ensure that the United State of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests.”

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