Update: Syria Responds to Potential U.S. Strike

Aug 27, 2013 5:16 AM

Syria's foreign minister says his country will defend itself using "all means available" in case of a U.S. strike. Walid al-Moallem says Syria has two choices, either to surrender or fight back, and it will choose the latter. He declined to elaborate or say to what specific means he was referring. Al-Moallem spoke at a press conference in the Syrian capital today amid growing international support for military action against Syria in response to what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said was "undeniable" evidence of a large-scale chemical attack likely launched by Damascus. Al-Moallem challenged anyone accusing the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons to provide proof.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says U.S. forces are now ready to act on any order by President Barack Obama to strike Syria. The U.S. Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea within range of targets inside Syria. The U.S. also has warplanes in the region. In an interview Tuesday with BBC television during a visit to the southeast Asian nation of Brunei, Hagel also predicted that U.S. intelligence agencies would soon conclude that last week's deadly attack on civilians in a Damascus suburb was a chemical attack by the government. He called it "pretty good intelligence."

The diplomatic push ahead of a possible U.S.-led military strike on Syria intensified Tuesday as the White House prepared to release intelligence evidence alleging the use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad's military.

President Barack Obama held discussions with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and French President Francois Hollande on Monday – the latest in a series of phone calls to allies as the United States lays the groundwork for potential military action.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said that “there must be accountability” for what he termed a “moral obscenity.”

Earlier Monday, Kerry spoke to leaders in Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and senior members of Congress, while National Security Advisor Susan Rice hosted a delegation of senior Israeli officials.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday that U.K. military plans were being made for a possible attack. However, U.S. officials say an attack on Syria isn't imminent, because it will take time to coordinate with allies and make all the evidence public. The U.S. is also unlikely to attack while a U.N. weapons team remains in Syria — and it isn't scheduled to leave until Sunday.

The U.S. officials reiterated that any military action would not aim to kill Assad and would be limited because the goal would be to respond to the use of chemical weapons. Command and control bunkers, airfields and artillery would be targeted.


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