News / Middle East

What Assets Could US Military Use Against Syrian Chemical Sites?

U.S. military assets that could be used in an operation in Syria.
U.S. military assets that could be used in an operation in Syria.
Western security experts say the U.S. military has three principal methods for carrying out a potential operation to secure or destroy Syria's suspected chemical weapons sites. 

One option is to airlift U.S. ground forces into Syria with the goal of seizing and securing the sites, which are thought to be concentrated in the cities of Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia. 

Parachuting troops

GlobalSecurity.org director John Pike said the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division could move a brigade into Syria within 12 hours of being given the task. The division is based in the East Coast state of North Carolina. 

The U.S. military also has a small troop presence much closer to Syria. 

U.S. media have reported that 150 military specialists were sent to Jordan earlier this year to train Jordanian forces in dealing with a possible Syrian chemical weapons crisis. 

The U.S. specialists have been based at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center northeast of Amman. Neither the United States nor Jordan has said whether those troops could be sent into Syria.

Navy strikes

A second option for the U.S. military is to destroy Syrian chemical stockpiles with cruise missiles fired from warships in the Mediterranean. 

Two U.S. navy battle groups capable of firing those missiles are on duty in the region. 

The USS Iwo Jima amphibious assault group is at sea as part of the U.S. 6th Fleet, whose area of responsibility includes the Mediterranean. Pike said that is where the group spends most of its time.

The USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier group is on duty specifically in the Mediterranean. Pike said the two battle groups likely have about 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles between them. 

The USS Eisenhower also has the ability to launch warplanes into Syria. Additional U.S. warplanes could be sent into Syria from a variety of air bases that United States shares with allies in Europe and the Gulf.

Regional air bases

Two of the closest air bases to Syria are in Turkey, one of the strongest regional critics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Incirlik and Izmir bases would provide the shortest routes to the chemical weapons sites. 

Pike said the U.S. Air Force also could fly some of its warplanes from bases in Western Europe to bases in Italy or Bulgaria, before dispatching them on a shorter journey to Syria. 

Deploying U.S. fighter jets from air bases in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman could be trickier.  

Gulf states including Saudi Arabia oppose Mr. Assad, but any warplanes heading from their territory toward Syria would need permission to fly over several other Arab nations. 
Overflight issues

Pike said Iraq is unlikely to grant that approval because it has refused to take sides in the civil war plaguing its neighbor. 
 
He also said Jordan may be reluctant to authorize overflights for fear of provoking Syrian retaliation with missiles that it cannot defend against. 

That leaves Egypt, a major U.S. military aid recipient, as the only other route for U.S. warplanes from the Gulf. 

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has expressed support for regime change in Syria. But he also has had a complex relationship with the United States.

Washington praised Mr. Morsi’s mediation of a truce between Israel and Hamas last month. It also has expressed concern about the Islamist leader’s handling of a political crisis with Egypt’s liberal opposition.

Would Mr. Morsi allow Washington to use Egyptian airspace for operations in Syria? “He probably would say, 'I’ll think about it,'” Pike said.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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