During the last weekly briefing, Pakistan Foreign Office’s position on Syria was balanced and hence, encouraging: “Any military action to address the current issues in Syria could have serious consequences and could plunge this already volatile region into deeper conflict. Accordingly Pakistan remains opposed to the use of force, urges maximum restraint by all sides, underscores the need for dialogue among the Syrians and emphasizes optimal utilization of United Nations in search for a peaceful solution”. Earlier at the UNSG Mr Ban Ki Moon had said that any use of force against Syria would require prior approval of the Security Council.

The divided 10 to 7 vote by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee authorizing a strike against Syria for the use of chemical weapons showed that there is no strong consensus. Committee’s resolution limits military action to 60 days, with a possible 30-day extension, and specifically prohibits the use of American ground troops. Poll held by the BBC and ABC News suggests more than one-third of Congress members were undecided whether or not to back the military action. A majority of those who had made a decision said that they would vote against such proposal. Meanwhile, Syria's parliamentary speaker has written to the speaker of the House of Representatives urging members not to rush into an "irresponsible, reckless action".

The US government accuses President Bashar al-Assad's forces of killing 1,429 people in a poison-gas attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In 1988, when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and Iranian troops, Washington remained carefully silent so as not to help the Iranian side in their war. Moreover, recently when Egyptian soldiers of General Sissi mowed down protesters, the White House insisted that it "is not in the best interests of the United States" to determine "whether or not a coup occurred."

Pope Francis, in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the G-20 summit, urged world leaders to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution" in Syria. "It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding," the pope said. The G-20 leaders were divided over Syria during their summit in Russian. The US and France were the only nations at the G-20 summit to commit to using force. China and Russia insist that any action without the UN would be illegal.

Putin warned on the eve of the summit that it would be unacceptable to go ahead with the military action without UN Security Council’s approval. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told the BBC that Mr Obama and Mr Putin should meet in order to find a solution to the Syrian conflict. China has already expressed its "grave concerns" over unilateral military strikes. Germany has ruled out participation in any US-led military strike. British parliament has also rejected the idea. A survey by “The Independent”, conducted after the Commons’ vote, suggests that two-thirds of the British are opposed to any strike on Syria without UN approval. Iran has also expressed the concern that the consequences of a US attack on Syria could lead to a widening of the conflict into Israel and other US allies in the region.

The UK says scientists at the Porton Down research laboratories have found traces of Sarin gas on cloth and soil samples. However, Syrian President has blamed rebels for the attack. Israeli peace activist, Gilad Atzmon claims that British firms, defying EU sanctions, sold chemical components needed for production of nerve gas to the Syrians, after the beginning of the popular uprising.

While testifying in the committee, John Kerry said that Obama is “not asking America to go to war.” Kerry informed the committee that 34 nations have indicated that they would support “some form of action against Syria”. He made a startling revelation that some Arab countries have offered to foot the entire bill of American intervention in Syria! He said that, “there is a real moderate opposition that exists.” He further said that there were 70,000 to 100,000 “oppositionists.” Of these, some 15 percent to 20 percent were “bad guys” or extremists, he added. Other assessments reveal that half of the opposition fighters are extremists. Even two groups have acknowledged ties to Al-Qaeda. America and its allies are openly arming and training these oppositionists. Russia’s fears concerning the consequences of a rebel victory are shared by many analysts in the CIA, the State Department and the Israeli government.

During the committee hearing, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that strikes against Syria were aimed at degrading its military capabilities. In any action that it undertakes, the US may destroy the Syrian Air Force, its command and control centres and degrade its military response ability to launch missiles and wage war. Campaign against Syria is also motivated by the American desire to ward off threats for Israel.

America is still committed to establishing peace and avoiding a complete collapse of the Syrian state, which could result in even greater chaos. The United States does not want either side to win this war. Victory for either side would mean dreadful massacres and ethnic cleansing, as well as an increased threat of international terrorism.

A Syrian peace settlement will be difficult to achieve, and will probably not be achievable until both sides have fought themselves into a state of exhaustion. However, in the long run, if Syria is not to disintegrate as a country, there will have to be a peace settlement that guarantees the sharing of power among Syria’s different ethno-religious groups. Participation of Russia, Iran and Iraq in such a settlement will obviously be essential. Instead of embroiling itself into military misadventure, the US should intensify attempts to lay the diplomatic basis for eventual settlement.

Syrian opposition has formed a loose command structure that has found support from several Arab nations and the West. Across much of Syria, where rebels live and fight, areas outside the government influence have evolved into a complex guerrilla and criminal landscape. Around 100,000 people have died in the conflict, and more than two million are classified by the UN as refugees.

Anti-war sentiment in the west and outrage of the human rights’ activists around the world is noble and laudable. This proves that the global conscience hasn’t totally gone to sleep. Ideally, the Arab and Muslim nations should have sorted out this issue. Unfortunately, Arab League and the OIC have kept up their tradition of impotence. The worst aspect of the episode is that some Muslim countries are extending full support to the nefarious designs of the United States, forgetting that today it is Syria, tomorrow it could be Iran and then some other country.

The writer is a freelance columnist.