Cameron reportedly pushing Obama toward Syria strike
British PM said by Times of London to want to act while outrage is still fresh; UK naval vessels reportedly readying for possible attack
British Prime Minister David Cameron is reportedly trying to push his US counterpart into launching a military strike on Syria in the coming days, a London newspaper reported early Monday.
The report by The Times of London, which was unsourced, came as US and Western leaders have increasingly placed blame on the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad for a devastating alleged chemical attack that killed hundreds near Damascus last week.
According to the paper, Cameron wants to act while outrage over the chemical attack is still fresh.
On Sunday, both France and the US said they believed the attack involved chemical warheads and came from regime forces, strengthening the case for Western military intervention long-sought by opposition forces.
On Monday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will meet British military chief Gen. Nick Houghton to discuss options for a strike, with a single lighting-quick barrage of strikes fired from warships in the Mediterranean the leading option, the Times reported.
A British government source told the paper that Washington and London are looking at a “very targeted attack” launched within the next 10 days to “prevent and deter” Assad.
The US began moving warships into the area on Saturday and on Sunday, the London-based Telegraph newspaper reported that British naval vessels were preparing join the American destroyers.
Damascus said on Sunday it would allow a team of UN weapons inspectors to probe the site of the Wednesday attack, a move seemingly aimed at forestalling any military action. Russia, a key ally of the Syrian regime, urged the US and Europe on Sunday to hold off on any decision until the UN team released its findings.
However, a White House official said the move by Assad was too late and had little credibility.
According to the Times, US president Barack Obama spoke with Cameron on Saturday and will speak with him again on Monday or Tuesday.
On Sunday, Obama spoke with French President Francois Hollande about the Syrian situation. The White House said in a statement the two leaders discussed “possible responses by the international community and agreed to continue to consult closely.”
A senior State Department official, not authorized to comment publicly by name, said US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with the top diplomats of Britain, France, Canada and Russia as well as U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon over the weekend.
The official said Kerry stressed that if the Syrian regime wanted to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons in this incident, it would have stopped shelling the area and granted immediate access five days ago.