As US President Barack Obama decides how to respond to the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria, two former American presidents who faced their own international crises offered some advice on Friday.
Former President Jimmy Carter, who has engaged in global diplomacy in the Middle East and North Korea since leaving office in 1981, said unilateral action against Syria by the United States would be a mistake.
“A punitive military response without a UN Security Council mandate 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, the institute headed by the former president, said in a statement.
The statement also described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as “a grave breach of international law” and quoted Carter directly as saying that those responsible “must bear personal responsibility.”
But it cautioned against the US taking military action without international support, including the need to work with Russia, which has warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the US intervenes with its military in Syria.
“All should seek to leverage the consensus among the entire international community, including Russia and Iran, condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria and bringing under UN oversight the country’s stockpile of such weapons,” the statement said.
Former President George W. Bush, who launched invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq when he was in office, said Obama has a “tough choice to make, and if he decides to use our military, he’ll have the greatest military ever backing him up.”
In an interview with Fox News Channel, Bush said, he was “not a fan” of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and added: “He’s an ally of Iran … he’s made mischief.”
When the Fox interviewer tried to get Bush to give his opinion on US military intervention in Syria, the former president said, “I refuse to be roped in.”