Friday, August 23, 2013

Pentagon considering strikes on Syria Officials

Update: 2013 August 24

Source: Press TV

In response to recent allegations of chemical attacks in Syria, the Pentagon has begun refining its military options for possible strikes in the Middle Eastern country, US officials said.

Officers at the Pentagon said they were updating target lists for potential airstrikes on a number of government and military installations in Syria, should President Barack Obama give the green-light to a military assault, officials said Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The military options being revised at the Pentagon range from possible strikes on Syrian military "delivery capabilities and systems" to command-and-control facilities and artillery batteries, officials said.

US officials, however, said the purpose of the military options would not be "regime change" but to "punish" President Bashar al-Assad if there was conclusive evidence that his government was behind the alleged chemical attacks.

Syria's foreign-backed opposition claimed on Wednesday that around 1,300 people were killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar.

Washington has said that it does not have all the facts to determine the veracity of that claim.

US State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said on Thursday that President Obama had directed the US intelligence community to gather information about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"At this time, right now, we are unable to conclusively determine CW (chemical weapons) use," Psaki said. "We are doing everything possible in our power to nail down the facts."

Other administration officials used a stronger language when talking to the media about the incident.

"There are strong indications there was a chemical weapons attack-clearly by the government," an unnamed senior administration official was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal. "But we do need to do our due diligence and get all the facts and determine what steps need to be taken."

The Syrian government and the army categorically denied any role in the alleged chemical attack.

In March, dozens of people were killed in a chemical attack in the northern province of Aleppo. A Russian-led inquiry said militants were behind the deadly attack.

Russia slams “Unacceptable” calls to use force in Syria

Source: Press TV
Russia has slammed as “unacceptable” calls by some European countries for use of force against the Syrian government, following claims that it had used chemical weapons in a recent deadly attack.

In a statement released on Friday by the country’s Foreign Ministry, it said Moscow is against further propaganda targeting the Syrian regime.
"Against the background of another anti-Syrian wave of propaganda, we believe calls from some European countries to apply pressure on the UN Security Council and already now take a decision on the use of force are unacceptable," Russian Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

In addition, Russian Foreign Ministry said evidence was mounting that the attack was "clearly provocative in nature" and that footage posted online claiming to incriminate the Syrian regime had been posted before the chemical attack took place. It also accused the insurgents of "directly impeding an objective investigation" of the incident.

There were also calls by the Ministry earlier on Friday for Takfiri militants operating in Syria to “ensure safe access” for the UN investigation team to the area where chemical weapons were allegedly used.

The head of the so-called Syrian National Coalition, George Sabra, claimed on August 21 that 1,300 people were killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar.

However, the Syrian government vehemently dismissed the baseless claims, saying the new accusations were fabricated to distract the visiting team of the UN chemical weapons experts and to cover up militants’ losses.

Meanwhile, the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, reported on the same day that one million Syrian children now live as refugees abroad and another two million are displaced within the country as a result of the ongoing fighting.

According to the UN, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions of others displaced in Syria since March 2011.
Update: 2013 August 24

US positioning forces for possible military action on Syria - Hagel

Source: Press TV
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel says the United States was positioning naval forces and assets in case President Barack Obama decides to order a military strike against Syria.

"The Defense Department has responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies," Hagel told reporters aboard his plane en route to Malaysia on Friday.
"And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options - whatever options the president might choose," he was quoted as saying by Reuters.

His remarks come after some American defense officials said earlier on Friday that Washington was considering military options against Syria over the allegations of the chemical weapons use by the Syrian government.

An unnamed defense official said the USS Mahan is set to stay in the region after it had finished its deployment and was due to head back to its home base in Norfolk, Virginia.

When asked if it was fair to report that the US had moved assets, Hagel said, "I don't think I said that. I said that we're always having to prepare - as we give the president options - prepare our assets and where they are and the capability of those assets to carry out the contingencies we give the president."

On Wednesday, Syria's foreign-backed opposition claimed that around 1,300 people were killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds. The Syrian government denied the allegations.

A team sent by the United Nations is set to investigate the latest claim of chemical weapons use outside Damascus.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday asked Syria to allow UN inspectors to investigate "without delay" the alleged chemical attack.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said the United States cannot attack Syria without a UN mandate for the allegations.

"If the US goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it. Do we have the coalition to make it work? And, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account," he said in an interview with CNN on Friday.

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