Daily Telegraph, London, on August 24, 2013, reported that the Pentagon is moving forces into place in case President Barack Obama opts for military action against Syria, as US security advisers prepare to meet to discuss how to tackle an apparent chemical attack in Damascus this week. Excerpts below:
Amid calls for military intervention after the Syrian regime carried out an alleged chemical weapons attack this week, US commanders have prepared a range of “options” for Mr Obama if he chooses to launch an attack on the Damascus regime, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters aboard his plane en route to Malaysia.
But he declined to provide any details on the positioning of US troops and assets.
US media reported warships had been sent to the region for possible cruise missile attacks or other action but Mr Hagel declined to comment on the accounts.
“The president has asked the Defense Department for options. Like always, the Defense Department is prepared and has been prepared to provide all options for all contingencies to the president of the United States,” he said.
“And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options – whatever options the president might choose.”
Separately, a US official said Mr Obama’s security advisers will convene at the White House this weekend to discuss US options, including possible military action, against the Syrian government over an apparent chemical weapons attack earlier this week.
If Mr Obama takes part in the high-level meeting as appears likely, it would be his first full-scale session with top foreign policy aides since the mass poisoning in a Damascus suburb.
The Pentagon chief and other defense officials made clear no decision had been taken on whether to employ military force against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Mr Hagel, who visited US Marines in Hawaii before setting off on a week-long tour of Southeast Asia, said he expected American intelligence agencies to “swiftly” assess whether the Syrian government indeed used chemical weapons.
He said the US government would work closely with its allies.
“The international community should and will act in concert on these kinds of issues,” Mr Hagel said.