Former President Carter warns US action on Syria without UN backing 'illegal'

Former President Carter on Friday came out strongly against military action in Syria without the United Nations's blessing.

“Punitive action” without a mandate from the U.N. Security Council or “broad support from NATO and the Arab League” would be “illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war,” the Carter Center said in a statement. “It will only harden existing positions and postpone a sorely needed political process to put an end to the catastrophic violence.”

“It is imperative to determine the facts of the attack and present them to the public. Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must bear personal responsibility,” the center quoted Carter as saying. “The chemical attack should be a catalyst for redoubling efforts to convene a peace conference, to end hostilities, and urgently to find a political solution.”


Former President George W. Bush, by contrast, has declined to weigh in publicly.

"The president's got a tough choice to make," Bush told Fox News on Friday, "and if he decides to use our military, he'll have the greatest military ever backing him up."

Carter's comments come as the Obama administration has ruled out seeking U.N. approval for a strike because of near-certain opposition from Russia and China. NATO allies including Great Britain, Canada and Italy have opted against participating in a punitive strike, while the Arab League has condemned the Assad regime for using chemical weapons but stopped short of endorsing military action.

The White House, however, says it is willing to go it alone in Syria. President Obama has called the use of chemical weapons a “red line” that would trigger a U.S. response, and he is expected to order a limited military strike within days.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill