The United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday that the US is weighing and getting ready for all options regarding the depening crisis in Syria.
Speaking to reporters travelling with him to Malaysia upon the claims that the US military is repositioning its naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea upon the order of President Barrack Obama to the Pentagon for options on Syria, amid rising pressure on the US to intervene. ” President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepareoptions for all contingencies. We have done that and we are prepared to exercise whatever option – if he decides to employ one of those options,” Chuck Hagel said. “The Pentagon has the responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” he added. He noted that it requires positioning US forces, positioning their assets, to be able to carry out different options – whatever options the president might choose. Previously, US defence officials stated that navy commanders had decided to keep the USS Mahan – a destroyer armed with cruise missiles – in the eastern Mediterranean Sea despite the ended deployment and was due to be replaced. Hagel stressed that the Pentagon is prepared to carry out military options on Syria if President Obama order them, reiterating White House statements warning that America was still gathering the facts about the Syrian government’s alleged use of poison gas against civilians.
Answering a question whether he was personally convinced chemical weapons was used in Syria, Hagel remarked that “We, along with our allies, are continuing to assess the intelligence, and the specifics of that intelligence, on the use chemical weapons.”
Obama has been hesitant to intervene in Syria’s civil war, however upon the recent reports of the killings near Damasc us are pushing the White House to make good on the president’s comment a year ago thatchemical weapons would be a “red line” for the United States.
He also warned that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces intentionally used chemical weapons, “there may be another attack coming”.
On Wednesday, Syrian opposition coalition blamed the Syrian regime forces of carrying out a chemical weapon attack in suburbs of capital Damascus which it said killed at least 1,300 people.
But the Syrian regime strongly denied the claim and described reports and figures as “lies and groundless,” saying reports were aimed at “distracting a visiting team of United Nations chemical weapons experts from their mission.”
A UN investigation team is currently in Syria to investigate an earlier allegation of use of chemical weapons reported by the Syrian government at Khan al-Assal as well as two other allegations reported by UN Security Council member states.