UK publishes rationale for Syria strikes

The UK government declared Thursday that an attack on Syria was justified on humanitarian principles.

“The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is a serious crime of international concern ... and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity,” the government's brief reads. “However, the legal basis for military action would be humanitarian intervention; the aim is to relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons.”

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The UK said it would seek a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing member states to take action against Syria, but said that even if such a resolution failed, the country would still be permitted to intervene to alleviate the “overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria.

Prime Minister David Cameron recalled the British Parliament from summer holiday on Tuesday to debate a possible intervention. Cameron has been seeking to pass a motion endorsing military action, but such a motion is in doubt with the Labour Party in opposition, and many Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs expected to rebel.

It is unclear whether a U.S. strike on Syria could begin before Tuesday. President Obama is scheduled to travel to Sweden on Tuesday, which could serve as another deadline for an initial U.S. military action.

The UK brief also claims that the Syrian government is responsible for additional chemical weapons attacks besides the alleged incident on Aug. 21, with a “pattern of use of chemical weapons over several months” that makes the government confident “that the regime will seek to use such weapons again.”

To back up the claim of Assad's responsibility, the government also released a letter from John Day, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which argues it is “highly likely” a chemical attack was launched by the Syrian regime last week.