BERLIN -- Europe moved closer overnight to military intervention in Syria.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called Parliament back today to debate the situation in Syria. According to news reports, commercial pilots near Cyprus say they have seen British C-130s and radar images of small formations of fighter jets heading to Britains Akrotiri airbase, which is only about 150 miles from Syria. The moves appear to be preparation for what is as yet an undefined military response to alleged chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian civil war.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with the defense ministers of France and the United Kingdom this morning. According to a Pentagon statement on the phone conversations, Hagel said the U.S. was ready "to respond to the outrageous chemical attacks" and that he "condemned the violence carried out by the Syrian regime and stated that the United States military is prepared for any contingency involving Syria."
A senior State Department official said a meeting scheduled in the Hague with a Russian delegation has been postponed because of consultations about "the appropriate response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21." But the official added: "As weve long made clear and as the events of August 21 reinforce it is imperative that we reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to the crisis in Syria. The United States remains fully invested in that process."
In Damascus Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem said that if the U.S. attacked, his country would employ "all means available" to defend itself. He said the U.S. has "a history of lies" and likened its claims that Syria had used chemical weapons to the warnings a decade ago that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction as a presage to the invasion of Iraq.
Syrian rebels leaders have allegedly been told to expect a western strike against the Assad Regime within days.
The Reuters news agency has reported that someone leaving a meeting in Istanbul of the Syrian National Coalition said: The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva.
Meanwhile in Russia, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich reiterated the view of his government that the west is rushing to judgment and considering action long before the facts are established. He said in a statement, Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region, are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa. We are calling on our American partners and all members of the world community to demonstrate prudence, strict observance of international law, especially the fundamental principles of the UN Charter.
While Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear that his nation urges restraint, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC today that strong non-military efforts have not prevented the escalation of events in Syria. He said that even without UN approval, the great humanitarian need and humanitarian distress could justify action.