The European Union backed the U.S. plan to strike Syria in response to the chemical weapons attack that killed over 1,400 people on Saturday morning, but opted to play the long game and wait for the results from the team of U.N. inspectors before acting.
All 28 countries that make up the E.U. released a joint statement Saturday condemning the Assad regime and supporting a potential military strike against Syria. "We were unanimous in condemning in the strongest terms this horrific attack. Information from a wide variety of sources confirms the existence of such an attack and seems to indicate strong evidence that the Syrian regime is responsible for this attack," E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in the statement. "In the face of this cynical use of chemical weapons, the international community cannot remain idle. A clear and strong response is crucial to make clear that such crimes are unacceptable and that there will be no impunity." The statement came after a meeting Saturday morning with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, of course.
There's "more and more evidence that the Assad regime is behind all these crimes. We can’t just ignore this," Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters after the meeting.
The endorsement is a big one, though, considering many countries were initially reluctant to support a military strike. Germany declined to sign the joint statement released Friday from 11 G20 countries calling for an international response. (Reuters has a great page set up keeping track of where every G20 country stands on a military strike.) France was one of the U.S.'s first supporters, but on Friday president Francois Hollande announced he would wait for the U.N. inspector's reports before taking any action. That move likely played a great influence on the rest of the E.U.'s decision. The U.N. reports won't be out for another week, at least.
Obama continued his push domestically to sell U.S. citizens on his "limited" military strike in Syria on Saturday during his weekly video address. "This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan," Obama said. "Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope - designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so." An Israeli diplomat told The Economist the plan for an American strike is to "open the Southern road," so to speak, so rebels who control much of the Southern part of the country can take Damascus.
That would be in line with what Obama has been promising all along, but it's worth paying special attention ahead of the President's big speech on Tuesday. Obama will lay out his case for a military strike again -- on top of contributions from Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. ambassador Samantha Power.