"President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that and we are prepared to exercise whatever option - if he decides to employ one of those options," Hagel told reporters during a trip to Malaysia.
The Pentagon is moving forces into position in the event that President Barack Obama opts for military action against Syria, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested Friday.
Amid calls for military intervention after the Syrian regime allegedly carried out a chemical weapon attack this week, US commanders have prepared a range of "options" for Obama if he chooses to launch an attack on the Damascus regime, Hagel told reporters aboard his plane en route to Malaysia.
Despite President Obama cautioning against intervention in Syria, the Pentagon is making "initial preparations" for a cruise missile strike on Syrian government forces, according to a new report.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey is expected to present options for such a strike at a White House meeting on Saturday, CBS News reported on Friday.
President Barack Obama is under renewed pressure to take action following the emergence of footage of what appears to be the aftermath of a toxic agent attack in a Damascus suburb on Wednesday. The forces of President Bashar Assad were assaulting a rebel stronghold in the district at the time, but deny responsibility. Moscow, which has maintained close ties with the regime, called the incident a rebel "provocation" possibly designed to derail upcoming Geneva peace talks.
Questioned on the continuing upheaval in Syria and Egypt during a CNN interview Friday, President Obama said the United States should be wary of "being drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region."
Obama went on to express reservations for becoming involved in the 30-month Syrian conflict due to a lack of international consensus.
"If the US goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, [and] do we have the coalition to make it work?" said Obama.
Despite his cautious tone, Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice said via Twitter, "What is Bashar al Assad hiding? The world is demanding an independent investigation of Wednesday’s apparent CW attack. Immediately."
Adding to the rhetoric in Washington, Sen. John McCain said that if the administration was to "let this go on," it was "writing a blank check to other brutal dictators around the world if they want to use chemical weapons."
Obama insisted to CNN that while the United States remains "the one indispensable nation' in international diplomacy, he suggested that perhaps this was one conflict where the world should not look to Washington for a definitive answer.
"The notion that the US can somehow solve what is a sectarian complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated," said the president.
The White House later released a statement confirming Obama’s words, and emphasizing that the US has no plans to put "boots on the ground.'
The US Navy will expand its presence in the Mediterranean with a fourth cruise-missile armed warship because of the escalating civil war in Syria, a defense official said on Friday.
The USS Mahan had finished its deployment and was due to head back to its home base in Norfolk, Virginia, but the commander of the U. Sixth Fleet has decided to keep the ship in the region, the defense official said.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, stressed that the Navy had received no orders to prepare for any military operations regarding Syria.
US officials are considering a range of options for responding to reports that Syria has used chemical weapons against civilians, including possible cruise missile attacks from the sea, a senior defense official told Reuters earlier.
President Barack Obama and his advisers are still studying how to respond to an apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria, but the White House reiterated the president's position on Friday that he did not expect to send troops to the country.
Obama has said several times he did not expect to have "boots on the ground" in Syria.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest repeated that comment to reporters traveling with Obama on a bus tour of New York and Pennsylvania.
Washington's assistance to Syrian opposition fighters was on an "upward trajectory" that was expanding in scope and scale, Earnest added.
Materials implicating the forces of Syrian president Bashar Assad in chemical weapons use near Damascus were prepared prior to the alleged incident on August 21, the Russian foreign ministry said.
Moscow continues to monitor closely the event surrounding the“alleged” chemical attack near Damascus, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said in a statement.
“We’re getting more new evidence that this criminal act was of a provocative nature,” he stressed. “In particular, there are reports circulating on the Internet, in particular that the materials of the incident and accusations against government troops had been posted for several hours before the so-called attack. Thus, it was a pre-planned action.”
The Damascus chemical attack accusations indicate the launch of “another anti-Syrian propaganda wave” and, in this context, the calls on the UN Security Council to immediately use force in Syria “heard from some EU capitals” are “unacceptable”, Lukashevich said.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Assad’s government has demonstrated a “constructive approach” to the chemical weapons issue by allowing UN experts into the country.
But it’s alarming that the “same signals” aren’t coming from the Syrian opposition, which so far hasn’t displayed willingness to ensure the safety and efficient operations of UN investigators on the territory it controls, he said.
“This directly impedes the objective investigation of allegations of possible cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, which is called for by a number of countries and which the Russian side supports,” Lukashevich noted.
The Russian foreign ministry “strongly appeals to those who should put pressure on the opposition, making it take the necessary steps in order to ensure the full realization of the objectives of the international expert mission,” the spokesman said.
The reports of a chemical weapons use in the suburbs of the Ghouta region on the outskirts Damascus appeared in the pro-opposition media on Wednesday, August 21, coinciding with the arrival of the UN investigators to the Syrian capital.
The Islamist rebels claimed that over a 1,000 people, including many children, were killed in the attack, with the government saying that the accusations were fabricated in order to cover up the opposition’s battle losses and undermine the work of the UN mission.
Voice of Russia, RT, Reuters, AFP