News / Middle East

Hagel: US Weighs Military Options for Syria

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, July 31, 2013.Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, July 31, 2013.
x
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, July 31, 2013.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, July 31, 2013.
VOA News
The U.S. defense secretary has strongly suggested that the U.S. is moving naval forces into place in anticipation of any decision by President Barack Obama to order military action on Syria after apparent chemical weapons use.

Chuck Hagel told reporters traveling to Malaysia with him Friday Obama has asked the Defense Department for a range of options if he chooses to launch an attack on the Damascus government.

Hagel's comments came after a defense official said the Navy would expand its presence in the Mediterranean with a fourth warship armed with cruise missiles.

The U.S. Sixth Fleet, with responsibility in the Mediterranean, is keeping the USS Mahan in the region with other destroyers instead of letting it return to its home port in Norfolk, Virginia.  

However, U.S. defense officials say the Navy has not received any orders to prepare for any military operations against the Assad government.

Angela Kane, the U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, arrived in Damascus Saturday to push for access to the suspected chemical weapons attack site.

A citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen shows Syrian citizens trying to identify dead bodies, after an alleged poison gas attack by government forces.A citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen shows Syrian citizens trying to identify dead bodies, after an alleged poison gas attack by government forces.
x
A citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen shows Syrian citizens trying to identify dead bodies, after an alleged poison gas attack by government forces.
A citizen journalism image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen shows Syrian citizens trying to identify dead bodies, after an alleged poison gas attack by government forces.
​Russia and China are joining international calls for an investigation into an alleged poison gas attack in a suburb of Syria's capital, as President Obama said the reported incident is of "grave concern."

Russia's Foreign Ministry Friday said claims by Syria's opposition that hundreds died in a poisonous gas attack several days ago should undergo an objective investigation, and it called on Syria to cooperate.

Moscow also called on rebel forces to guarantee safe passage for U.N. investigators who are already in the country looking into previous allegations of chemical use. The ministry released the statement following a call between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The United States has been pushing for a U.N.-led investigation.  Obama told CNN that officials are still gathering information but called the reported attack a matter of "grave concern."

"We're still gathering information about this particular event, but it is very troublesome," he said.

But Obama also told CNN the idea that the U.S. can just go in and solve the problems in Syria is "overstated."

"We have to think through strategically what's going to be in our long-term national interests," he said.

China's Foreign Ministry Friday also backed calls for a U.N. investigation, with a spokesman telling the state-run Xinhua news agency that China "resolutely opposes" the use of chemical weapons no matter which side is responsible.

Syrian opposition leaders and activists have released video of scores of adults and children lying dead on the ground without signs of injury. Neither the number of people killed nor the cause of death could be independently confirmed.

The Syrian government denies the allegations.

On Friday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called a chemical weapon attack "the only possible explanation" and placed the blame on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  

"I know some people in the world would like to say that this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria, I think the chances of that are vanishingly small," he said. "And so we do believe this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime on a large scale, but we would like the United Nations to be able to assess that, so for those who don't believe that, for those who doubt that, the evidence can be gathered, but that is certainly our opinion."

Despite backing calls for an immediate investigation, Russia is not convinced the government is responsible.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich on Friday raised suspicions about the motives of the Syrian opposition.

"Moscow continues to follow closely developments over the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus," he said. "There is more and more new evidence that this criminal action was provocative. In particular, there are reports on the Internet saying that the details of the incident with accuses of government forces appeared online a few hours before the so-called attack. Therefore, we are talking about a pre-planned action."

Still, the former top U.S. weapons investigator for Iraq, Charles Duelfer, disagrees and says it appears the videos are genuine.

"This is quite powerful and it's clearly something that hasn't been faked. I mean, these are real people," he said. "You couldn't create this, much to the - I know there are some international parties that say, well, this could be something created, a 'provocation', in the words of the Russian foreign minister. That's not a convincing position."

Duelfer says, as a result, the U.N. personnel already in Syria and awaiting access to the site will be under enormous pressure.

"In essence they've got their finger on the trigger of the international community where military force can be unleashed," he added.

The United Nations has formally asked Syria to let U.N. personnel "swiftly investigate" the scene.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would amount to a "crime against humanity" that would result in "serious consequences."  

Assad's government has consistently denied using chemical weapons. It has accused the opposition of using chemical weapons earlier this year near Aleppo. The U.N. team already on the ground in Syria was sent to investigate those claims.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: hallofrecord from: Michigan
August 24, 2013 10:59 AM
Stopping the use of chemical weapons which are indiscriminate in their killing is the civilized approach to war. Stopping the use of bombs which are indiscriminate in their killing is the civilized approach to war. Wait, I didn't mean to go that far. We can't make war too civilized.

by: Michael from: USA
August 24, 2013 10:28 AM
The United Nations seeks to sort through evidence as if in a criminal investigation, which it is, but whatever evidence comes to the attention of the world will be only the first step in explaining it, as the article points out, conspiracy theories; but criminal investigations do not work when dealing with nations and countries because of the whole framework of diplomacy

by: jerry800826 from: china
August 24, 2013 8:50 AM
if rebel forces use chemical weapons,will the us launch an attack on them?usa bias for rebel forces

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More