‘Assets in Place’
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC in comments aired yesterday that the U.S. has “assets in place” and forces are “ready to go.” Another U.S. official said a no-fly zone over Syria or using troops on the ground aren’t being considered.
The U.S. has repositioned naval assets in the Mediterranean in case the Obama administration decides to take military action, the first official said. The U.S. has supplied Turkey with two Patriot batteries that can shoot down short- and medium-range missiles.
Israel’s military bolstered defenses near the northern border, deploying a second Iron Dome missile defense system outside the city of Haifa and putting an Arrow missile defense battery on alert for medium-range weapons, the Ynet news site reported, without saying where it got the information.
The confrontation with Syria will be at the forefront when Obama, Cameron and Hollande join other leaders of the Group of 20 nations next week in St. Petersburg, Russia. The host for the summit is Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Assad who has thwarted previous action against Syria at the UN and questioned whether a chemical attack took place.
One U.S. official who asked not to be identified said the timing of any decision or a military attack isn’t tied to the summit on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6.
China has also signaled opposition. The People’s Daily newspaper, published by the ruling Communist Party, carried an editorial today saying that some countries had passed a “verdict” on Syria before all facts were in and that action should only be taken in response to reliable investigations.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said a strike on Syria would be a “disaster for the region,” according to the state-run Iranian Students News Agency. “This kindling of fire is like a spark in a room stocked with explosives because the consequences of it are unknown,” he was quoted as saying today in a meeting with officials.
The prospect of a military confrontation has rumbled through markets. Stock markets in the Middle East slumped for a second day today. West Texas Intermediate crude surged to the highest price since May 2011.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it began in March 2011, and more than 2 million refugees have poured into neighboring countries, according to the UN.
In Syria, Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said yesterday the government won’t surrender. “We have the means to defend ourselves, and we will surprise people with them,” he told a news conference in Damascus.
“It’s important to send a message to Assad that this is not about regime change but also to send a message that hurts,” Volker Perthes, director of the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs, which advises Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, said in an interview.