The Pentagon has updated its list of potential targets in Syria should US
President Barack Obama decide to intervene militarily in the country,
CNN reported on Friday, citing a US Defense Department official.
report came as pressure is mounting on Obama to take action against the
regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the wake of allegations that
he killed more than 1,000 people in chemical weapons attacks on Wednesday.
US defense official told CNN that target lists for air strikes in Syria
had been updated, and plans for using cruise missiles capable of
targeting Syria without entering the country's airspace had also been
The official stated that the US had made no decision to
act in Syria, but rather the targets were updated "to give the
president a current and comprehensive range of choices."
Assad's army continues to move forces and equipment making flexible planning a necessity, the official told CNN.
The updated list includes mobile targets that would disrupt Assad's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks.
and his national security team had a four hour Oval Office meeting on
military options Friday, focusing on cruise missile targets, but no
decisions were taken.
A defense official said Friday that the US
Navy will expand its presence in the Mediterranean with a fourth
cruise-missile armed warship because of the escalating civil war in
The USS Mahan had finished its deployment and was due to
head back to its home base in Norfolk, Virginia, but the commander of
the US Sixth Fleet has decided to keep the ship in the region, the
defense official said.
The official, who was not authorized to
speak publicly, stressed that the Navy had received no orders to prepare
for any military operations regarding Syria.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that "the Defense Department has responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies. And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets to be able to carry out different options - whatever options the president might choose."
Congressman Engel urges air strikes in Syria
top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee
urged Obama on Friday to order air strikes against Assad's government
after the apparent chemical attacks.
Representative Eliot Engel
cited Obama's statement that the use of chemical weapons by Assad's
forces would cross a "red line" and cause the United States to act to
halt such violations of international law.
"If we, in concert
with our allies, do not respond to Assad's murderous uses of weapons of
mass destruction, malevolent countries and bad actors around the world
will see a green light where one was never intended," Engel wrote in a
letter to Obama and obtained by Reuters.
Syria denies being responsible and has in the past accused rebels of using gas. However, US and allied intelligence agencies have made a preliminary assessment
that Syrian government forces indeed used chemical weapons in
Wednesday's attacks and that the act likely had high-level approval from
Assad's government, according to US and European security sources.
sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, cautioned that the
assessment is preliminary and, at this stage, they are still seeking
conclusive proof, which could take days, weeks or longer to gather.
Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote to
Engel this week saying the United States had the capability to conduct
targeted air strikes in Syria to destroy runways, fuel depots and
"And, we can do this with no boots on the ground,
from stand-off distances," Engel wrote in his letter to Obama. "I know
that your Administration is wrestling with these very complex issues,
but I believe that we, as Americans, have a moral obligation to step in
without delay and stop the slaughter."
Engel has been a strong
advocate for more aggressive US military intervention in Syria, as have
several other members of Congress, including such influential foreign
policy voices as Republican Senator John McCain.
remains deep opposition and skepticism among some members of the House
and Senate - as well as the Obama administration - about any rush to
military intervention in Syria.
Obama called the deaths of
hundreds of Syrians in the apparent chemical weapons attack a "big event
of grave concern," but stressed on Friday he was in no hurry to embroil
Americans in a costly new war.
The United States is providing
non-lethal support to the Syrian opposition, but has been slow to make
good on promises to deliver weapons to moderates.
In his letter
to Engel this week, Dempsey warned of the complexity of choosing sides
in Syria and stressed the US intervention would not extinguish the
religious, tribal and ethnic tensions fueling the conflict.