News Column

Obama May Be 24 Hours From Ordering Strike on Syria

August 28, 2013
President Obama

President Obama is perhaps a day from ordering missile strikes on Syria to punish the Assad regime for using nerve gas on its own people, U.S. officials said.

The White House plans to release evidence as soon as Thursday it promises will prove the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical attack outside Damascus that killed more than 1,000 people, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Syria has denied it used chemical weapons and has blamed rebels.

The report by the office of National Intelligence Director James Clapper is a final step before Obama decides on the U.S. military strike against Syria, the newspaper said.

Administration officials describe a U.S. attack as all but inevitable.

"We are prepared," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take. We are ready to go."

The assets include four cruise-missile-armed destroyers from the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet positioned in the Mediterranean Sea.

The northwest part of Syria borders the Mediterranean.

Each destroyer is capable of carrying up to 90 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The Navy fired 212 Tomahawks during the bombing campaign that helped topple Libya leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Tomahawk missiles are so precise they can hit specific windows in buildings, NBC News said.

Three days of U.S. missile strikes against Syria could start as early as Thursday, NBC said, citing senior U.S. officials.

Britain, France and Turkey have expressed a willingness to contribute to military action.

Russia evacuated dozens of Russian nationals, mostly women and children, from Syria aboard a special plane sent by Russia's Emergencies Ministry, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said allegations of chemical-weapons use by the regime were "categorically baseless," state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

He challenged the United States "to show evidence" and said the idea of a Western military strike to change the balance of power in Syria in the 2 1/2-year-old civil war was "delusional and not at all possible."

White House spokesman Jay Carney stressed Tuesday "the options that we are considering are not about regime change. They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons."

But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called on the Obama administration and U.S. allies to bolster the attacks with weapons to rebels to tilt the balance in Syria's civil war.

"The important part of this whole situation is, is this just going to be just a retaliatory strike that has no lasting impact or something that changes the momentum on the ground in Syria?" McCain told reporters in Mesa, Ariz.

Iran said any military strike on Syria would lead to a retaliatory attack on Israel.

"In case of a U.S. military strike against Syria, the flames of outrage of the region's revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime," the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted influential Parliament member Mansur Haqiqatpur as saying.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said his country was "prepared for every scenario."

The 22-member Arab League Tuesday blamed the Syrian regime for the chemical weapons attack but declined to back a retaliatory military strike.

The league members urged the U.N. Security Council to agree on "deterrent" measures.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal called for unspecified "decisive and serious" action under the United Nations.

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Source: Copyright UPI 2013. 2013. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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