U.S. officials are looking at the air war over Kosovo in the late 1990s as a possible blueprint for strikes on Syria without a U.N. mandate, the New York Times reports.
During the 1998-99 conflict, Russia supported the Yugoslav regime of Slobodan Milosevic, accused of committing atrocities against civilians in Kosovo. Because Russia holds veto power in the U.N. Security Council, there was no chance of getting a resolution authorizing the use of force against the Yugoslav Republic.
In March 1999, NATO launched a series of airstrikes against Yugoslav forces, arguing thatthe abuses constituted a grave humanitarian emergency. The attacks lasted 78 days.
One year after warning that the use of chemical arms in the Syrian conflict would cross a U.S. "red line," the administration of President Barack Obama is searching for ways to respond to Bashar Assad's regime if its use of the banned weapons is proven.
Russia again opposes a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria.
"It's a step too far to say we're drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn't made a decision," an unidentified senior administration official told The Times, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar," the official said.
Kosovo was one of many subjects under discussion regarding the Syrian crisis, the official said. The possible effects that a bombing campaign in Syria would have on countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt are also being studied, the official said.
In an interview with CNN on Friday, Obama said the alleged use of chemical weapons was "a big event of grave concern."
He said there were questions about whether the United States would infringe international law if it attacked another country without a Security Council mandate.
Assad opponents said his forces used chemical weapons in attacks Wednesday that killed hundreds. The regime denies the accusations.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday suggested the Pentagon was moving forces into place ahead of possible military action against Syria.