Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC Tuesday that U.S. forces are ready to act against Syria if President Obama orders action over an alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians last week.
“We are prepared, we have moved assets in place to be able to fufill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take, if he wishes to take any of the options he’s asked for,” Hagel said, during a trip to Brunei. “We are ready to go, like that.”
Hagel said the U.S. is not alone in its belief that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack.
“In our opinion, I think the opinion of the entire world community, Syria used chemical weapons against its own people,” he said.
Hagel’s comments came a day after Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria’s use of chemical weapons in attacks on civilians was undeniable and that the Obama administration would hold the Syrian government accountable. Kerry called the attack a “cowardly crime” and a “moral obscenity.”
On Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem denied the accusations and said that any military action by the U.S. and other countries would be baseless. He said Syria would defend itself using “all means available.”
“They said the Syrian forces were the ones who carried out this attack. I deny this utterly and completely,” al-Moallem said.
Also on Tuesday, the United Nations said that its team of chemical weapons experts in Syria was delaying a second trip to investigate the attack because of security reasons. On Monday, a vehicle belonging to the team investigating last week’s attacks came under sniper fire as inspectors headed out to interview survivors of last week’s attacks.
British lawmakers plan to meet Thursday to discuss how to respond to Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron said.
In a message on Twitter, Cameron said there would be a “clear” proposal from the government and a vote on action.
Russia and China, allies of the Syrian government, warned against military intervention.
3. Update - 10:19 a.m. EDT: NBC Reports Military Strikes Could Begin Thursday
From NBC News: “Missile strikes against Syria could be launched ‘as early as Thursday,’ senior U.S. officials said Tuesday as the White House intensified its push toward an international response to the suspected use of chemical weapons.”
The strikes would last three days and be limited in scope, according to NBC’s report.
4. Update - 11:33 a.m. EDT: France “Ready to Punish” Syria
In a speech Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande said his administration was “ready to punish those who made the decision to gas these innocent people.”
5. Update - 1:45 p.m. EDT :”Not About Regime Change”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama is not considering actions to forcefully overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “The options that we are considering are not about regime change,” Carney said.
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