Strikes on Syria as early as Thursday, say US officials
28 August, 2013
WASHINGTON: Missile strikes against Syria could be launched "as early as Thursday," senior US officials said on Tuesday as the White House intensified its push towards an international response to the suspected use of chemical weapons.
The "three days" of strikes would be limited in scope, and aimed at sending a message to the regime of Syria President Bashar Assad, US officials were quoted as saying by NBC News.
News on the possible timescale for military action followed another round of telephone diplomacy by US President Barack Obama, who held discussions with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and French President Francois Hollande on Monday.
Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said there was "undeniable" evidence that Syria's government had used chemical weapons to kill its own people, adding that "there must be accountability" for what he termed a "moral obscenity."
Some US allies, most notably Britain, have signalled that a quick, limited military strike on Syria could take place without UN Security Council approval. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that such a move would be "a very grave violation of international law."
China also said an attack on Syria would be "dangerous and irresponsible."AFP adds from Jerudong (Brunei): US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC Tuesday the US forces are "ready to go" if called on to strike the Syrian regime.
He said evidence pointed to Syria's use of chemical weapons.The Pentagon chief said forces had been deployed as needed and President Obama had reviewed military options presented by commanders.
"We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," he said.
"We are ready to go, like that."Hagel said in the interview that Washington would soon share evidence that it was the Syrian regime which unleashed chemical weapons last week on the outskirts of Damascus.
"Now, we'll have more information and more intelligence here very shortly to present," he said in Brunei, where he is attending a regional gathering of defence ministers. After speaking to his British and French counterparts by phone earlier Tuesday, Hagel said US allies and most of the world believed President Bashar al-Assad's regime was behind the chemical attack.
"I think most of our allies, most of our partners, most of the international community that we've talked (to) — and we have reached out to many — have little doubt that the most base, human, international humanitarian standard was violated in using chemical weapons against their own people," he said.
He said there was no longer a question about who staged the assault, which the opposition says killed 1,300 people."I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn't the rebels who used it, and there'll probably be pretty good intelligence to show ...that the Syria government was responsible," he said.
Meanwhile, Syria vowed to defend itself against any strike. Asian, Gulf and European stock markets nosedived and world oil prices hit a six-month high over fears of possible military intervention, as the drumbeat of war appeared to grow louder in Western capitals.
Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, warned any use of force would have "catastrophic consequences".During a defiant news conference, Syria Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus would defend itself against any strikes.
"We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal," he said."The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves."
Muallem said Syria had capabilities that would "surprise" the world, and warned that any military action against it would serve the interests of Israel and al-Qaeda.President Vladimir Putin of Russia told British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday there was no proof Damascus had used chemical weapons.