AUSTRALIAN Foreign Minister Bob Carr said today that the Australian military would not play a role in any armed intervention in Syria, despite his firm belief that Syrian government forces were responsible for a devastating chemical attack on civilians last week.
Senior US government officials have claimed that the American military may commence missile strikes on Syria before the end of the week. Syrian officials have warned that missile strikes would be met with “surprise” retaliatory measures, and have been publicly supported by political allies in both Moscow and Tehran.
Senator Carr told a conference of business leaders in Perth earlier today that he believed that the alleged chemical attack that took place in an eastern Damascus suburb last week could only have been the action of forces linked to the al-Assad regime. His comments were made shortly after a United Nations source claimed that the attack had been undertaken at the behest of Maher al-Assad, brother of the Syrian president.
Senator Carr said: “A government that uses chemical weapons against its own people has to be made to pay a price. The evidence accumulates that this chemical weapons attack did take place and came from the Assad forces.”
The former New South Wales premier said that a United Nations sanctioned intervention would be Australia’s preferred course of action, however the country was ready to support an unsanctioned response due to the “sheer horror” of last week’s chemical attack. Australia is due to take on presidency of the United Nations Security Council on Sunday, and as such will play a key role in any deliberations regarding the use of force in Syria.
Senator Carr also said that the Syrian crisis had exposed a crucial flaw in the system of international governance, wherein any permanent member of the United Nations Security Council is able to veto a majority decision and prevent action being taken. Russia’s political allegiance to Syria has thus far prevented sanctions being undertaken against Syria despite a prolonged campaign from representatives of both France and the United Kingdom.
Senator Carr insisted that American officials were taking the possibility of reprisal attacks by Syrian government forces seriously, and weighing those risks carefully. He admitted that any strike on Syria would constitute “an act of war” and that a Syrian response would have to be expected.
He ruled out the possibility of Australian troops playing a direct role in Syria, stopping short of stating that the Australian government would play no role whatsoever. His announcement comes on the same day that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that there was overwhelming evidence that chemical weapons had been used against civilians in the Damascus attack.