The U.S. could hit Syria with three days of missile strikes, perhaps beginning Thursday, in an attack meant more to send a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad than to topple him or cripple his military, senior U.S. officials told NBC News on Tuesday.
The State Department fed the growing drumbeat around the world for a military response to Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons against rebels Aug. 21 near Damascus, saying that while the U.S. intelligence community would release a formal assessment within the week, it was already “crystal clear” that Assad’s government was responsible.
Vice President Joe Biden went even further, bluntly telling an American Legion audience in Houston: “Chemical weapons have been used.”
“No one doubts that innocent men, women and children have been the victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and there’s no doubt who’s responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime,” Biden said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney repeated Tuesday that the White House isn’t considering the deliberate overthrow of Assad.
The options that we are considering are not about regime change,” said during a daily briefing with reporters. “They are about responding to the clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”
But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an influential voice on military matters, pressed the administration to go further, calling for the U.S. and its allies to provide weapons to “the resistance on the ground.”
“The important part of this whole situation is, is this just going to be just a retaliatory strike that has no lasting impact or something that changes the momentum on the ground in Syria?” McCain told reporters in Mesa, Ariz., after an event on immigration reform.
Three days of airstrikes planned
Senior officials told NBC News that Defense Department planning had advanced to the point that three days of strikes were anticipated, after which strategists could run an assessment and
target what was missed in further rounds.
U.S. missile strikes would almost certainly be launched from Navy destroyers or submarines in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. in recent days has moved destroyers closer to Syria, which sits on the sea’s eastern edge, but that was mostly a symbolic move. U.S. Tomahawk missiles are so precise that they can hit not just buildings but also specific windows, and they could hit Syrian targets from far farther west in the Mediterranean.
Navy officials said four destroyers are lined up ready to strike: the USS Barry, the USS Mahan, the USS Ramage and the USS Gravely.
Tuesday, a fifth guided-missile destroyer, the USS Stout, also entered the Mediterranean, through the Straights of Gibraltar, but officials said it wouldn’t take part in any cruise missile attack.
“The four destroyers now in place have more than enough cruise missiles,” one official said.
Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria’s government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed, a Reuters/Ipsos poll says…. just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act.
We will kill Syrians because we oppose the killing of Syrians. That makes no sense to me. But this does:
In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Syria is “the only substantial oil producer …, with crude oil production of 410,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2004, and total liquids production of 460,000 bbl/d. Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon all must import substantially all of their oil requirements.”