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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid