U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the American military is ready to act if President Barack Obama orders retaliation against the Syrian regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday that the U.S. military had “moved assets in place” and would be able to “fulfill and comply” with any option Obama wishes to take.
The Associated Press says the U.S. is expected to make public on Tuesday a “more formal determination” of a use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Syrian government has denied launching any chemical attacks and has blamed rebels for last’s week attack that left hundreds dead.
News reports say the U.S. and several other Western powers are considering a limited, targeted response to to Damascus’ alleged use of chemical weapons to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
British news reports says the United Kingdom is preparing contingency plans for possible military action in Syria.
A U.N. team is currently in Syria to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons but its mission was delayed Tuesday due to security concerns.
On Monday, a White House spokesman said there was “very little doubt” that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the alleged use of the weapons a “moral obscenity.”
Stephen Zunes, a professor of Middle East studies at the University of San Francisco, says while there is pressure on the United States to take military action, there are limits to what strikes can accomplish.
“The impulse is quite understandable, but on a practical level it does not seem that it would make such a difference in terms of the military balance given that the rebel forces are divided into literally hundreds of different militia, some of which are as anti-Western or more so than the regime,” said Zunes.
The U.S. on Tuesday postponed a meeting with Russian officials scheduled for later this week to discuss the situation in Syria. Russia and China have repeatedly blocked actions at the United Nations to impose sanctions on the Syrian government for assaults on the civilian population during the civil war. VOA