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

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid