- West: No decision has yet been made on whether/when to attack Syria (Ynet News)
- Military strikes on Syria could come “as early as Thursday” US officials tell NBC News
- White House rules out ‘regime change’ among options for Syria (Reuters)
- Syria Defiant as U.S. Allies Lay Ground for Strike: Arab League Says Regime Used Chemical Weapons (WSJ)
- What would “taking punitive military action against the Syrian regime” look like? (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- ‘A pity they both can’t lose’: Five insights on how US action in Syria might play out, and how Israel might want it to; and one battle-proven suggestion for an ultimatum to Assad (Times of Israel)
(Washington, D.C.) — An Iranian-Syrian alliance preparing for a war with Israel involving weapons of mass destruction? An Israeli Prime Minister threatening to strike? An American President vacillating over what to do even as the situation gets more and more dangerous by the hour? Sounds like a scenario ripped from the pages of my recent political thriller, Damascus Countdown. Unfortunately, this scenario is playing out in real life and in real time in the heart of the Middle East.
Here are the latest developments:
- Though no final decision has yet been made, a Western military strike on the Assad regime in Syria could happen within days — “Western powers have told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces within days, according to sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul,” reports Reuters. “The opposition 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, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva,” one of the sources who was at the meeting on Monday told Reuters.”
- The Pentagon says it is ready — “The U.S. Defense Department has presented military options to President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, without outlining them,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Defense officials have said the U.S. is considering cruise-missile strikes from navy ships in the Mediterranean. ‘We are ready to go,’ he said.”
- Iran warns Israel will be the “first victim” of retaliation if the U.S. and other Western allies attack Syria — “A senior Iranian lawmaker said Israel would be the first casualty of any U.S.-led strike on Syria, according to regional media reports,” reports the Washington Beacon. “Hossein Sheikholeslam, the director general of the Iranian parliament’s International Affairs bureau, claimed the United States would not dare attack Syria but said that if it does, ‘the Zionist regime will be the first victim.'” The lawmaker added: “No military attack will be waged against Syria. Yet, if such an incident takes place, which is impossible, the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria.” The Beacon adds: “Iran has been one of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chief allies. It has sent Hezbollah reinforcements to battle rebel forces and acted as Assad’s chief defender in the Middle East….Mohammad Esmayeeli, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, claimed Washington is not ready for any new military invasion. He said that if the Obama administration does decide to launch an attack, Moscow will support Damascus. Russia has consistently thrown its support behind Assad, providing him with advanced weapons and blocking concrete action at the United Nations.”
- Israel is on full alert, and Netanyahu warns he is ready to hit Syria hard if threatened — Israeli military forces and civil defense authorities are on full alert, looking for any sign that Syria is about to attack, especially with chemical weapons. Netanyahu warned Israel will hit hard if a Syrian threat is detected. “The State of Israel is ready for any scenario. We are not part of the civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt whatsoever to harm us, we will respond and we will respond in strength,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday after a meeting with his security advisers, his second in as many days.
- The White House has made no final decision, but is looking specifically at how to prosecute an attack, what targets to hit, and what weapons systems to use — The New York Times is reporting that “President Obama is considering a range of limited military actions against Syria that are designed to “deter and degrade” the ability of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to launch chemical weapons, Pentagon officials said Tuesday. Although no final decisions have been made, it is likely that the attacks would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, even though the Obama administration says the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military is the trigger for the planned attack. They said any effort to target chemical sites risks an environmental and humanitarian disaster and could open up the sites to raids by militants. Instead, the American assault would be aimed at military units thought to have carried out chemical attacks, the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks and the headquarters overseeing the effort, the officials said.” The Times also notes: “An American official familiar with the military planning said that the initial target list has fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control locations as well as a variety of conventional military targets, official said. Like several other military officials contacted for this report, the official agreed to discuss planning options only on condition of anonymity. Planners said that although suspected chemical weapons depots are seductive targets, they are too risky. ‘That is a hairy business,’ the official said. ‘Our interest is in keeping the chemical weapons secured. You hit a bunker that holds chemical weapons and all of a sudden you have chemical weapons loose.'”
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