WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — U.S. forces are now ready to act on any order by President Barack Obama to strike Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday.
The U.S. Navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea positioned within range of targets inside Syria, as well as U.S. warplanes in the region, Hagel said in an interview with BBC television during his visit to the southeast Asian nation of Brunei.
Hagel also predicted that U.S. intelligence agencies would soon conclude that last week’s deadly attack on civilians in a Damascus suburb was a chemical attack by Bashar Assad’s government.
“I think it’s pretty clear that chemical weapons were used against people in Syria,” he said. “I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn’t the (Syria) rebels who used it, and there’ll probably be pretty good intelligence to show is that the Syria government was responsible — but we’ll allow the time to come together to provide that information.”
Obama asked the Pentagon to give him “all options for all contingencies,” Hagel said, and “we have done that.”
“We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Hagel said.
During Tuesday’s White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration is not contemplating about regime change in Syria.
“The options that we are considering are not about regime change,” Carney told reporters. “They are about responding to the clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”
Carney added though that Assad cannot remain in power.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday it was “undeniable” the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people.
Carney said that the resolution of the Syrian conflict must come through political negotiations.
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