Defense Secretary Hagel says U.S. Military is "Ready to Go" in Response to Syria
Now that there's little doubt remaining that last week's attack in Syria involved chemical weapons, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says that the U.S. is ready for a military response whenever President Obama gives the word.
At a White House press conference Tuesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney clarified that Obama's options "are not about regime change" and are not limited to "the use of force."
Carney said the White House is "working on an assessment and once we have that assessment we will provide information about it in the coming days," adding: "I think you can expect it this week."
In an interview with the BBC Tuesday, Hagel went so far as to say that the U.S. is "ready to go" and well positioned to strike a target within Syria, given that it has warplanes in the area and four Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea.
With the military ready to respond, it's a game of hurry up and wait. But Hagel doesn't think the wait will be all that long. According to Hagel, the government has "pretty good intelligence" that conclusively proves chemical weapons were used. He believes that the administration will soon formalize a response based on their findings.
Hagel's comments come a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the evidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria was undeniable and condemned the action as a “moral obscenity." Kerry also brushed aside the Syrian government's late decision to allow U.N. inspectors to investigate the site of the alleged attack, saying that it was too late to save their credibility.
Kerry's speech was quickly followed by a reminder from Russia that unilateral military action in Syria prior to a U.N. report would be a breach of international law.
The Syrian government is accused of dropping nerve gas in an attack against rebels, resulting in the deaths of hundreds, including women and children. Previously, President Obama had said that the use of chemical weapons would result in a strong response from the U.S.
Syrian officials are sticking to their story. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem "utterly and completely" denied the allegation against the regime, and says that if chemical weapons were used, they were deployed by rebels.