The United States could hit Syria with three days of missile strikes, perhaps beginning Thursday, in an attack meant more to send a message to the Syrian regime than to cripple its military, senior U.S. officials told NBC News.
The disclosure added to a growing drumbeat around the world for military action against Syria, believed to have used chemical weapons in recent days against scores of civilians and rebels who have been fighting the government for two years.
In three days of strikes, the Pentagon could assess the effectiveness of the first wave and target what was missed in further rounds, the officials said.
Underscoring the urgency facing world leaders, the British prime minister called Parliament back from vacation and said it would take a vote Thursday on action, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the American military was “ready to go.”
A day earlier, using forceful language, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Syrian chemical attacks were a “moral obscenity” and said the regime of President Bashar Assad had not just used chemical agents but covered up the evidence.
Obama orders release of report justifying Syria strike
Obama ordered a declassified report be prepared for public release before any military strike commences. That report, top advisers tell CBS News, is due to be released in a day or two.
There was no debate at the Saturday meeting that a military response is necessary. Obama ordered up legal justifications for a military strike, should he order one, outside of the United Nations Security Council. That process is well underway, and particular emphasis is being placed on alleged violations of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Air Strikes on Syria “Within Days”
Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalise a list of potential targets.
Government sources said talks between the Prime Minister and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue, but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.
As the preparations gathered pace, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned that the world could not stand by and allow the Assad regime to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people “with impunity”.
Britain, the US and their allies must show Mr Assad that to perpetrate such an atrocity “is to cross a line and that the world will respond when that line is crossed”, he said.