Citing government sources, British daily The Telegraph wrote that as military commanders were discussing a list of potential targets, the Royal Navy is deploying vessels for a series of cruise missile strikes on Syria.
Since last week’s chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that left over 300 civilians dead, political rhetoric has been building against President Bashar Assad, alleging the regime carried out the attack against its own citizens. On Sunday, Britain added its voice to the chorus of countries urging for intervention in Syria.
Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the Assad regime, stating that “all the evidence points in one direction.”
"We cannot, in the 21st century, allow the idea that chemical weapons can be used with impunity, that people can be killed in this way, and there are no consequences for it," he said.
Branding Assad a dictator, Hague stressed a “strong response” was essential in light of the use of chemical weapons to “slaughter” Syrian citizens.
Syrian President Bashar Assad responded to the calls for an international reaction to the chemical attack, warning that any international intervention in Syria would end in failure.
"The comments [accusing the regime of using chemical weapons] made by politicians in the West and other countries are an insult to common sense... It is nonsense," Assad said, adding the accusations were completely “political.”
Russia also urged caution, calling on Washington to avoid “repeating past mistakes.”
“All of this makes one recall the events that happened 10 years ago, when, using false information about Iraqis having weapons of mass destruction, the US bypassed the United Nations and started a scheme whose consequences are well known to everyone,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Moscow has also said a UN investigation into last Wednesday’s attack is of paramount importance and it was essential that its results were not influenced before time.
A team of UN experts arrived at the site of the attack on Monday in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, however doubts have already been raised over the validity of an investigation.
Washington has already alleged that an investigation would be “too late to be credible.” The British government echoed the US, stating that valuable evidence could have been destroyed in subsequent bombing of the area or tampered with.
"The fact is that much of the evidence could have been destroyed by that artillery bombardment. Other evidence could have degraded over the last few days and other evidence could have been tampered with," Hague told reporters on Saturday.
The toxic gas attack in Ghouta triggered a wave of media hysteria with mixed reports alleging that thousands had been killed. On Saturday, French charity Medcins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) said that 355 people had died and over a thousand were exhibiting systems related to neurotoxic poisoning. However, the non-profit organization said it was impossible to discern who was behind the attack.
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“The world is a better place when the United States takes leadership; this is time for us to do this. I hope we’ll do it soon,” the American lawmaker said on Fox News Sunday.
A growing number of Republicans and Democrats in Congress are urging President Barack Obama to approve military action against Syria following reports of a deadly chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus last week.
Engel said that the United States had to respond quickly and could not afford to wait for the United Nations.
“We could even destroy the Syrian Air Force if we wanted to… We have to move and we have to move quickly.”
Other senior US officials have also indicated that instead of seeking a UN approval for military action, Washington could work with its partners such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the Arab League.
"We'll consult with the UN. They're an important avenue. But they're not the only avenue," a senior administration official said.
The Syrian government has allowed UN inspectors to visit a site that allegedly came under chemical attack on Wednesday. Obama administration officials, however, have dismissed as too late the Syrian offer.
Although there is still no evidence to blame the chemical attack on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a senior administration official said there was “very little doubt” that Damascus was behind the attack.
“Based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts and other facts gathered by open sources, the US intelligence community, and international partners, there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident,” the unnamed official said in a written statement on Sunday, as reported by the New York Times.
The Syrian government and the army categorically denied any role in Wednesday’s chemical attack which killed hundreds of people. Russia, a key ally of Syria, insists that the attack was "clearly provocative in nature," and that it was staged by foreign-backed militant groups to incriminate the Assad government.
In recent days, the Pentagon has moved more warships into place in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and American war planners have updated strike targets that include government and military installations inside Syria, officials said.
President Obama met with his national security advisers at the White House over the weekend to discuss “a range of options” for Syria, but officials said late Sunday that the president had yet to decide how to proceed.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reiterated Sunday that the Pentagon has prepared “options for all contingencies” and is ready to use force if the president gives the green-light.
Meanwhile, the US top military leader is in Jordan to discuss possible strikes on neighboring Syria.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey was set to meet with his Jordanian counterpart and other regional defense chiefs during his visit.
"The exchange is designed to increase the collective understanding of the impact of regional conflicts on nations, foster ongoing dialogue and improve security relationships," Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson said.
President Obama said last year that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was “a red line” that would provoke a military response