Obama threatens action if usage of chemical weapons proven in Syria

President Barack Obama said that the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria is a matter of grave concern that requires immediate attention, provided it is proven true by the United Nations.

Last Updated: Aug 24, 2013, 17:20 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: President Barack Obama said that the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria is a matter of grave concern that requires immediate attention, provided it is proven true by the United Nations.

News agencies on Saturday reported that the United States is reportedly planning to launch a cruise missile attack, following the alleged chemical weapons attack in capital Damascus that left hundreds dead on Wednesday.

CBS News reported that the Pentagon is making the initial preparations for such an attack, but added that it won`t happen until President Barack Obama gives a green signal to it.

Obama in an interview said that US’ core national interests were at stake in the Syrian conflict, as it wished to protect its allies in the region and curtail the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

According to reports, Obama has not yet made a decision for military intervention to topple the Bashar Al-Assad Government, and is said to be awaiting clear evidence from UN investigators before acting on a retaliatory decision.

The US government had warned Syria months ago that using chemical weapons could provoke a reverse response.

The attack on the Damascus suburbs was more likely to be a poison gas attack, the officials said.

The commander of the US forces in the Mediterranean has ordered naval warships to move closer to Syria to be ready for a possible cruise missile strike, reports suggested.

The US forces are expected to target command bunkers and launchers that were used to fire the chemical weapons into suburbs on the outskirts of Damascus, the officials said.

US intelligence has given circumstantial evidence that they had detected activity at known Syrian chemical weapons sites few days before the attack.

US Navy prepares for possible military strikes

The Pentagon is moving naval forces closer to Syria in preparation of possible military strikes, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested.

Hagel declined to describe any specific movements of US forces. He said Obama asked that the Pentagon to prepare military options for Syria and that some of those options "requires positioning our forces."

US Navy ships are capable of a variety of military action, including launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, as they did against Libya in 2011 as part of an international action that led to the overthrow of the Libyan government.

"The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options — whatever options the president might choose," Hagel said.

He said the US is coordinating with the international community to determine "what exactly did happen" in the reported use by the Syrian government of chemical weapons against civilians earlier this week.

"We`re still assessing that," he said.

Hagel said a determination on the chemical attack should be made swiftly because "there may be another attack coming," although he added that "we don`t know" whether that will happen.

Hagel said that although he is scheduled to spend the next week traveling in Southeast Asia, he will remain in contact with the White House about developments in Syria and planning for potential US action.

With agency inputs