Thorning-Schmidt opens up possibility of Syria intervention

The pressure on the UN Security Council continues to mount as momentum for intervention picks up pace

PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) announced today that she is warming up to the idea of co-operating with other nations in non-UN sanctioned action against the Syrian regime.

Thorning-Schmidt made the statement the day after the US secretary of state, John Kerry, stated it was "undeniable" that chemical weapons were used in Syria. Kerry's remarks were largely seen as laying the groundwork for military intervention against the regime of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, though he stressed that US president Barack Obama had not yet made a decision on how to react to Syria's use of chemical weapons. 

The sharpening of rhetoric from the Americans seems to have led directly to a change of tone in Copenhagen.

“What we are hearing from our closest allies is that they are not in doubt about the use of chemical weapons or that Assad was the one to use chemical weapons against his own people," Thorning-Schmidt said, according to TV2 News. "This puts maximum pressure on UN’s Security Council, but I must say that if the council does not react in this situation, then we need to consider alternative reactions. And we will listen intently to how they evaluate the situation.” 

Departure from previous statements
Just yesterday, prior to Kerry's remarks, Thorning-Schmidt said that intervention without UN backing would carry serious consequences. Her remarks were also a departure from those made by the foreign affairs minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), who warned against any country going it alone and said that a UN investigation must take place before intervention should even be discussed.

“I want to warn against individual nations competing over who can come up with a plan first,” Søvndal told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “It’s important not to jump over too many hurdles right now. It is essential in such a complex conflict that the UN Security Council has responsibility.”

Signs that action is brewing
The UN sent a group of inspectors to Syria earlier this week to find out whether the reports of the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces had merit after over a thousand civilians were reported killed in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. According to various media reports, the UN inspectors were fired on by unidentified snipers.

Thorning-Schmidt's statements today also come after The Guardian newspaper reported that the activity on a British airbase in Cyprus has greatly increased over the past two days, which could be seen as a signal that the West is preparing to take military action in Syria.