The White House signaled that the United States would act alone on Syria attack if necessary to protect its national security interests, as a Western coalition that just days ago appeared determined to launch a joint military action split wide open.
President Obama appeared increasingly isolated after British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote Thursday in the House of Commons on endorsing military action. “As we’ve said, President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
French President Francois Hollande, whose government was the first Western advocate for a military response, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also had offered support, called for delaying any military operation until the United Nations Security Council can review evidence collected by chemical weapons experts now in Syria.
In a TV interview Wednesday, Obama said the American security interest in Syria included deterring further use of chemical weapons, stopping terrorists from obtaining such weapons, and protecting nearby allies such as Israel and Turkey as well as U.S. military bases in the region.
The 20-member team is scheduled to leave Damascus, the Syrian capital, by Saturday, but its final report may be days or weeks away. The team will try to determine whether sarin nerve gas or other toxic chemical agents were used, but not who used them.