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Obama Prepares for Possible Military Strike Against Syria

The Obama administration believes it has definitive proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deployed mass gassing of Syrian civilians last week, killing more than 300 people, leading the administration to prepare to make a military strike against Assad.

Though White House spokesman Jay Carney was reluctant to provide details, officials say the White House has begun to notify Congressional leaders of a possible strike. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday that the Pentagon has complied with President Obama’s request for options for all contingencies.

“He has seen them, we are prepared,” Hagel said. “We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take. We are ready to go.”

The administration also was working to assemble allied backing and obtain assent from the Arab League that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds near Damascus last week. The influential League called for those behind the attack to be brought to international justice at an emergency meeting today in Cairo—though the 22 members stopped well short of endorsing outside military action.However, they urged the U.N. Security Council to agree on “deterrent” measures.
Meanwhile, Syria has vociferously denied responsibility for the attack and its foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem, said Syria’s military would defend the country against any foreign intervention.“We all hear the drums of war around us,” Moualem said Tuesday. “If they want to attack Syria, I think that using the lie of chemical weapons is fake and not accurate, and I challenge them to show evidence.”He added that if the West believes a military strike will change the balance of power in Syria, which has been embroiled in a bloody civil war for more than two years, that is “delusional and not at all possible.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that when Obama “has made a decision and has an announcement to make, he’ll make it.”

Carney said the U.S. and many other nations are convinced that the Assad government was responsible for the attack.

Carney said the only remaining decision for the president is “what is the appropriate response to this clear violation of international norms?”

What might an attack look like? U.S. officials said it would be of limited scope and duration, using “stand-off” weapons such as sea-launched cruise missiles or long-range bombers. They would be designed as much to send a message of resolve and warning, as to seriously damage the regime.

Possible targets under consideration are Syrian air force bases, aircraft, and command and control facilities. Chemical weapons storage areas are unlikely because of their number and the manner in which they disperse—which might lead to civilian collateral damage.
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