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Friday, October 28, 2016

JERUDONG, Brunei (AFP) – U.S. forces are “ready to go” if called on to strike the Syrian regime, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC Tuesday, saying evidence pointed to its use of chemical weapons.

The comments by Hagel, on a tour of Southeast Asia, will add to mounting speculation that the United States and European allies are poised to launch an assault on Syria over a deadly chemical weapons attack in its long-running battle against rebels.

The Pentagon chief said forces had been deployed as needed and President Barack Obama had reviewed military options presented by commanders.

“We are prepared. We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” he said. “We are ready to go, like that.”

Hagel said in the interview that Washington would soon share evidence that it was the Syrian regime which unleashed chemical weapons last week on the outskirts of Damascus.

“Syria used chemical weapons against its own people,” Hagel said in the interview.

“Now, we’ll have more information and more intelligence here very shortly to present. I think the Secretary [of State] (John Kerry) noted that yesterday,” he said in Brunei, where he is attending a regional gathering of defense ministers.

After speaking to his British and French counterparts by phone earlier Tuesday, Hagel said U.S. allies and most of the world believed President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was behind the chemical attack.

“I think most of our allies, most of our partners, most of the international community that we’ve talked [to] — and we have reached out to many — have little doubt that the most base, human, international humanitarian standard was violated in using chemical weapons against their own people,” he said.

He said there was no longer a question about who staged the assault, which the opposition says killed 1,300 people.

“I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn’t the rebels who used it, and there’ll probably be pretty good intelligence to show …that the Syria government was responsible,” he said.

He added: “The deeper we get into this, it seems to me it’s clearer and clearer that the government of Syria was responsible.”

Hagel’s comments reflected increasingly hawkish rhetoric from Obama’s administration, which had previously sought to avoid being drawn into the Syrian conflict.

But the administration’s view has shifted, with officials saying the use of chemical weapons represents a dangerous precedent.

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • idamag

    That is all we need is another conflict we cannot afford. We should let the UN handle this.

    • tdm3624

      I would like to see the UN take care of this too but I think they are too weak to smash Assad.

      • idamag

        Syria and Iran are friendly to one-another. Also Russia. All it would take for North Korea to attack us is if we are vulnerable. If we initiate an attack, where will the rest of the world be? If we let the UN take care of it, all the members of the UN might get involved. As I asked before: Can we afford another conflict? Do we want to sacrifice more American lives? If we stay in perpetual conflicts, we will be weaker than you perceive the UN to be.

  • tdm3624

    I’m torn. On the one hand I really don’t want us getting involved in another pointless conflict. On the other, chemical warfare is something that is horrific enough to warrant an attack. There is a reason all the great powers pledged not to use it after WW1.