In response to recent allegations of chemical attacks in Syria, the Pentagon has begun refining its military options for possible strikes in the Middle Eastern country, US officials said.
Officers at the Pentagon said they were updating target lists for potential airstrikes on a number of government and military installations in Syria, should President Barack Obama give the green-light to a military assault, officials said Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The military options being revised at the Pentagon range from possible strikes on Syrian military “delivery capabilities and systems” to command-and-control facilities and artillery batteries, officials said.
US officials, however, said the purpose of the military options would not be “regime change” but to “punish” President Bashar al-Assad if there was conclusive evidence that his government was behind the alleged chemical attacks.
Syria’s foreign-backed opposition claimed on Wednesday that around 1,300 people were killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar.
Washington has said that it does not have all the facts to determine the veracity of that claim.
US State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said on Thursday that President Obama had directed the US intelligence community to gather information about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
“At this time, right now, we are unable to conclusively determine CW (chemical weapons) use,” Psaki said. “We are doing everything possible in our power to nail down the facts.”
Other administration officials used a stronger language when talking to the media about the incident.
“There are strong indications there was a chemical weapons attack-clearly by the government,” an unnamed senior administration official was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal. “But we do need to do our due diligence and get all the facts and determine what steps need to be taken.”
The Syrian government and the army categorically denied any role in the alleged chemical attack.
In March, dozens of people were killed in a chemical attack in the northern province of Aleppo. A Russian-led inquiry said militants were behind the deadly attack.
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