President Obama could attack Syria with a cruise missile strike as early as THURSDAY as Russia says West is acting like a ‘monkey with a grenade’ in Muslim world
- American destroyers have moved into position in the Mediterranean Sea and are ready to launch into action at any moment
- The strikes would last no more than two or three days
- Secretary of State John Kerry set the stage for military intervention on Monday by sharply condemning President Assad’s ‘undeniable’ use of chemical weapons against civilians
- The Syrian regime says it will defend itself against a U.S. attack using ‘all means possible’
- Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin accused Western countries of behaving ‘towards the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade’
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syria that his country ‘will respond, and respond with force’ if Israel is targeted
- United Nations officials investigating the chemical attack were shot at by snipers Monday and had their second site visit delayed on Tuesday over security concerns
- The UN chemical weapons experts returned to the site of the alleged toxic gas attack after surviving the sniper fire and took samples
President Obama is weighing a strike involving cruise missiles against military targets in Syria that would last two or three days and could start as early as Thursday, according to administration officials.
In preparation for the potential strike, American destroyers have moved into position in the Mediterranean Sea and are ready to launch into action at any moment, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday.
‘We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,’ Hagel said in an interview with BBC television during his visit to the southeast Asian nation of Brunei.
In return, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned Washington that his government is ready to defend itself using ‘all means available.’ Russia, a Syrian ally, responded by delivering aid to the region and evacuating some of its citizens. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin also blasted Western countries on Twitter, saying, ‘The West behaves towards the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade.’
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syria that his country ‘will respond, and respond with force’ if Israel is targeted in some sort of counterattack.
The potential strikes against Syria would likely last no more than two or three days, enabling the U.S. and its allies to punish Assad for the chemical attack he allegedly ordered on August 21 without drawing Western powers deeper into the country’s civil war, Obama administration officials said. Senior officials told NBC News that the strikes could be launched ‘as early as Thursday.’
But Americans are deeply opposed to involving U.S. forces in the conflict in Syria, as evidenced by a Reuters/Ipsospoll that showed just 9 percent of people support military intervention.
That number jumps to 25 percent if Assad is proven to have carried out the toxic gas attack.
The White House said Tuesday that it would be ‘fanciful’ to assume anyone but Assad is responsible for the use of chemical weapons.
‘It’s our firm belief that the Assad regime is responsible,’ White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. He said the administration will provide the public with an intelligence assessment proving the regime’s culpability later this week.
Carney also made clear that Obama is not considering a regime change as one of his options in responding to the chemical attack.
‘It is our firm conviction that Syria’s future cannot include Assad in power,’ Carney said. But ‘the options that we are considering are not about regime change. They are about responding to the clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.’
Assad continues to deny claims that he ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Syrian government accused Secretary of State John Kerry of lying when Kerry said that there was ‘undeniable’ evidence of a toxic gas attack.
The government also denied Kerry’s assertion that it has not been cooperating fully with U.N. chemical weapons investigators, who were finally allowed into Syria on Monday after a five-day delay.
Snipers opened fire on the investigators as they traveled to the site of the alleged chemical attack on Monday and the convoy’s second visit to the site, scheduled for Tuesday, has been delayed due to security concerns.
Western leaders told the Syrian opposition during a meeting on Monday to expect a strike against embattled President Bashar al-Assad’s forces within days.
‘The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva,’ Reuters reported, citing sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.