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.
In an interview with BBC television during his visit to the southeast Asian nation of Brunei, Hagel 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.
Venezuela president warns against attack on Syria
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says any outside military action taken against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons on its own citizens could lead to a “disastrous war.”
Maduro is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and made the comment Tuesday while visiting a Russian warship in Venezuela’s La Guaira port.
He says the military intervention that the U.S. and other nations are contemplating could, in his words, “be the beginning of a great international conflagration.”
Maduro says the allegation of chemical weapons use by Syria on Aug. 21 “smells the same” as one of the reasons cited by Washington for invading Iraq in 2003 — that the Iraqis possessed weapons of mass destruction.