US, allies 'within days' of military action against SyriaTue, 27 Aug, 2013
| Posted By: Times Of Earth (TOE)
American forces are "ready" to launch a strike on Syria if President Barack Obama gives an order to attack, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel tells the BBC. Photo: Associated Press
US forces in the region are “ready to go”, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said, as Washington and its European and Middle Eastern partners honed plans to punish Assad for a major poison gas attack last week that killed hundreds of civilians.
The US defence chief said his forces are ready to launch strikes against the Syrian regime over alleged chemical attacks, amid growing Western and Arab calls for action.
Syrian opposition leaders have been told by Western allies to expect military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's government within days, Reuters news agency reports.
According to the report, the Syrian National Coalition was told in clear terms that "action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days". The coalition passed Western allies a list of targets, the report added.
"There is no precise timing... but one can speak of an imminent international intervention against the regime. It's a question of days and not weeks," AFP news agency quoted Syrian National Coalition official Ahmad Ramadan as saying.
"There have been meetings between the Coalition, the [rebel] Free Syrian Army and allied countries during which possible targets have been discussed."
American forces are "ready" to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel says.
"We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfil and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel told the BBC.
The White House said the US would release intelligence on last week's suspected attack in the next few days.
The UK Parliament is to be recalled on Thursday to discuss possible responses.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the world could "not stand idly by" after seeing "appalling scenes of death and suffering" caused by suspected chemical weapons attacks.
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem is vowing to strike back at any Western military attack with what he calls "surprise" defenses.
Moallem on Tuesday said Syria is hearing war drums. He said the West is using allegations of chemical weapons as an excuse to attack.
He again denied that the Syrian government has used such weapons, and he challenged the United States and its European allies to show evidence.
Because of security concerns Tuesday, United Nations investigators postponed their visit to another Damascus suburb where chemical weapons apparently were used. Snipers fired at a U.N. car during a stop in Moadamiyeh Monday. No one was hurt and the Syrian government and rebels blamed each other for the gunfire.
But it is not just the West condemning Syria. The Arab League meeting in Cairo is blaming the Assad government for the attack and is demanding that those responsible be put on trial.
French President Francois Hollande says his country is ready to punish those who made the "vile" decision to gas innocent people. He also promised France will increase its military support to the main Syrian opposition group.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a "forceful" response if Syria makes any attempt to attack Israel.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu denounced the Syrian government's alleged chemical weapon attacks near Damascus as a "crime against humanity" and said it must "not go unanswered."
But China's state news agency Xinhua cautioned against a rush to military action. In a Tuesday commentary, it said the world should remember that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq followed U.S. allegations that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons were never found.
Russia, a key Syrian ally, also is warning against Western intervention in Syria. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin Tuesday accused Western powers of behaving in the Islamic world "like a monkey with a grenade."
Meanwhile, UN chemical weapons experts postponed efforts to collect more evidence from the site of the alleged attacks.
They had been due to make a second visit to the sites on Tuesday, but Muallem said the mission had been put off because rebels failed to guarantee their security. That was confirmed by the United Nations.
The UN convoy had come under sniper fire on Monday as it tried to approach a suburb where a chemical attack apparently took place, but managed to interview victims receiving treatment in two nearby hospitals.
The increasing signs of impending military action sparked losses on global stock markets.
In afternoon London trading, the FTSE 100 index dropped 0.64 per cent, the CAC 40 index in Paris shed 2.23 per cent and Frankfurt’s DAX 30 sank 1.49 per cent.
New York’s Dow Jones Industrial Average opened 0.72 per cent lower.
The price of oil rose, with Brent crude at one stage reaching $111.92 — the highest point since early March — before closing at $111.81, a gain of $1.08 on Monday.