| USWorld

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Obama assesses options on Syria

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By From Wire and Online Reports
Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama convened his top national security advisers on Saturday to discuss the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, a White House official said, amid indications that U.S. military assets are being positioned for a possible missile strike on President Bashar Assad's regime.

“We have a range of options available, and we are going to act very deliberately so that we're making decisions consistent with our national interest, as well as our assessment of what can advance our objectives in Syria,” the official told The Washington Post.

“Once we ascertain the facts, the president will make an informed decision about how to respond,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The official gave no indication of the timing of a decision. The meeting included a review of intelligence that has been gathered since Wednesday, when the chemical weapons barrage allegedly occurred in an eastern suburb of Damascus. Syrian rebels have accused forces loyal to Assad of initiating the attack. The government has denied using chemical weapons.

In a news release from its Brussels office, the international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said three hospitals it supports in Damascus have reported seeing about 3,600 patients displaying “neurotoxicity symptoms” in less than three hours on the morning of the attacks. Of those patients, it said, “355 reportedly died.”

Among the options at Obama's disposal are cruise missiles launched from Navy warships in the Mediterranean.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated assets in the region are being bolstered and repositioned to bring them within range of Syria, The Associated Press reported.

“The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options — whatever options the president might choose,” Hagel said.

A Defense official told The Post that the Navy has four destroyers in the Mediterranean in close proximity to Syria. The Navy traditionally has kept three in the area, but the commander of one of the ships, which was scheduled to depart, opted to stay put to keep more resources in the region while the White House assesses its options, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss fleet deployments.

Obama has emphasized that quick intervention in Syria is problematic because of the international considerations that should precede a military strike.

He discussed the situation by phone with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the White House said. It was Obama's first known conversation with a foreign leader about Syria since the reports surfaced of an alleged chemical attack.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government continued to accuse rebels of using the chemical weapons and warned the United States not to initiate any military action, saying such a move would set the Middle East ablaze.

Syria has alliances with Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militant groups. The country borders its longtime foe and U.S. ally Israel, making the fallout from military action unpredictable.

In the past year, violence in Syria has spilled into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters have joined the combat alongside Assad's forces.

Obama has remained cautious about getting involved in a war that has killed more than 100,000 people and includes Hezbollah and al-Qaida.

In an interview on CNN on Friday, the president said that “if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. 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? Those are considerations that we have to take into account.”

For the past year, he has threatened to punish Assad's regime if it resorted to using its chemical weapons arsenal — which is among the world's most vast — saying that the use or even deployment of such weapons of mass destruction constituted a “red line” for him. An intelligence assessment concluded in June that chemical weapons have been used in Syria's civil war, but Washington has taken no military action in response.

The Associated Press and The Washington Post contributed to this report.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Despite U.S. dollars and bombs, effort failing to squash ISIS
  2. Blankenship’s attorneys want mine blast evidence out of trial
  3. Suspect in South Carolina church shooting wants to plead guilty to hate crimes, attorney says
  4. Hope dims for Fla. teens lost at sea
  5. Fetal parts in Planned Parenthood lab shown in 4th video
  6. Global lion population falling primarily because of loss of habitat, experts say
  7. Analysts expect French laboratory will be able to provide details from examination of jet part
  8. Fires’ fury unabated in California
  9. Amid 4-year drought, fears rise of trees dying, falling in California
  10. Baltimore slayings climb to level unseen in decades
  11. Dusty Atlantic Ocean thwarts tropical storms