WASHINGTON, District of Columbia – The United States on Monday postponed a meeting with Russia on the Syrian crisis, as Washington appeared to be positioning for a potential military strike.
“Given our ongoing consultations about the appropriate response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21,” Washington has decided to postpone Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and Ambassador Robert Ford’s meeting with a Russian delegation that was scheduled for this week in the Hague, a senior State Department official said.
“We will work with our Russian counterparts to reschedule the meeting. As we’ve 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 official stressed.
The United States said Sunday there was “very little doubt” Syrian forces had used chemical weapons on civilians, and dismissed an offer by Damascus for a UN team to view the attack site.
The comments marked a significant escalation of a showdown over the horrific attack outside the Syrian capital that killed up to 1,300 people last week, according to the Syrian opposition, and came as Washington appeared to be positioning for possible military action.
Officials said President Barack Obama, who held crisis talks Saturday with top aides, would make an “informed decision” about how to respond to an “indiscriminate” chemical weapons attack.
An official told AFP that based on the reported number of victims and their symptoms, and US and foreign intelligence, “there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident.”
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Washington had noted that Syria had offered to let UN inspectors view the site of the alleged attack on Monday, but said it was too little, too late, and that the evidence available at the site “has been significantly corrupted” due to the delay.
A US diplomatic offensive led by Secretary of State John Kerry, comments coming from the White House and signs the Pentagon is positioning ships closer to Syria fueled an impression that Obama may be getting ready to jettison his antipathy to new Middle Eastern entanglements and order a limited military strike.