Syrian woman chants anti- President Assad slogans, during a protest in front of the Syrian embassy to condemn the alleged poison gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus, during a protest in front of the Syrian embassy, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. Anti-government activists accused the Syrian regime of carrying out a toxic gas attack that is thought to have killed at least 100 people, including many children as they slept, during intense artillery and rocket barrages Wednesday on the eastern suburbs of Damascus that are part of a fierce government offensive in the area.(AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday played down the prospect of speedy U.S. intervention in Syria, stressing the difficulty of ordering military action against the Assad government without a strong international coalition and a legal mandate from the United Nations.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Obama has asked the Pentagon to provide military options in light of reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians. While Hagel declined to discuss any specific force movements, U.S. defense officials said the Navy moved a fourth warship into the region. Each can launch ballistic missiles.
“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 told reporters traveling with him to Asia.
U.S. 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.
While the Obama administration weighed military responses to this week’s claims of a large-scale chemical weapons attack near Damascus, Obama spoke as cautiously as ever about getting involved in a war that has killed more than 100,000 people and now includes Hezbollah and al-Qaida.
The president made no mention of the “red line” of chemical weapons use that he marked out for Syrian President Bashar Assad a year ago and that U.S. intelligence says has been breached at least on a small scale several times since.
“If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be Login to read more