US officials are looking at the air war over Kosovo in the late 1990s as a possible blueprint for strikes on Syria without a UN mandate, the New York Times reported Saturday.
During the 1998-1999 conflict, Russia supported the Yugoslav regime of Slobodan Milosevic, accused of committing atrocities against civilians in Kosovo. But since Russia holds veto power in the UN 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 air strikes against Yugoslav forces, arguing that it was the abuses that 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 US "red line," the administration of President Barack Obama is searching for ways to respond to Basher al-Assad's regime if its use of the banned weapon is proven.
Today, as in the late 1990s, Russia 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 unnamed 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 on Syria would have on countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt are also being studied, the official said.
In an interview with CNN Friday Obama said the alleged use of chemical weapons was "a big event of grave concern."
Obama said that 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.
Late Friday US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested the Pentagon was moving forces into place ahead of possible military action against Syria.