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September 8, 2013 3:04 pm

Report: Pentagon Preparing for Longer Strike Against Syria Than Initially Planned

avatar by Joshua Levitt

U.S. Pentagon. Photo: US Navy.

The U.S. Pentagon is expanding its target list and preparing for a longer bombardment of Syria, than it originally had planned, including follow-up strikes, the LA Times reported over the weekend, citing two unnamed Pentagon officials.

The newspaper said that because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dispersed regime troops and equipment, including rocket launchers, tanks and other hardware, over the past two weeks in preparation for a U.S. strike, in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons, the White House has asked for a broader list than its original 50 targets and will consider follow-up strikes after assessing initial results. The U.S. military response may also expand to using Air Force bombers, in addition to the five U.S. warships already in the Mediterranean and an aircraft carrier strike group in the Red Sea, including one cruiser and three destroyers, all capable of firing cruise missiles at Syria.

“There will be several volleys and an assessment after each volley, but all within 72 hours and a clear indication when we are done,” said one officer familiar with the planning, as cited by the LA Times.

But the newspaper said military officers were doubtful that even a longer campaign would inflict enough damage to the Syrian regime to alter the course of the civil war or deter future use of chemical weapons. The planned U.S. attack “will not strategically impact the current situation in the war, which the Syrians have well in hand, though fighting could go on for another two years,” one U.S. officer familiar with the latest intelligence, told the LA Times.

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The newspaper, citing the two Pentagon officers, said planners are also preparing strikes in case Syria, or its regional proxies, retaliate against the U.S. or its allies.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress Tuesday that the Syrian military was moving its forces, making it more difficult for the U.S. to strike equipment capable of delivering chemical agents, while prisoners and other noncombatants had been moved to potential military targets where the U.S. might strike.

Aides to U.S. President Barack Obama, cited by the newspaper, said the president will present the case for striking Syria on CBS, NBC and ABC, as well as on PBS, CNN and Fox News, before addressing the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday, the night before a full Senate vote is expected on the move.

Internationally, foreign ministers of the EU’s 28 member nations, meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, over the weekend, said that “the international community cannot remain idle” after allegations that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people, but declined to back a military strike without a green light from the United Nations, where approval by its Security Council is unlikely because of an expected veto from Russia, Syria’s staunchest international backer, along with Iran.

The newspaper said the Obama administration hopes that by denying Syria the option of resorting to chemical weapons and by providing additional arms and training to rebel fighters, a component demanded of the Administration by Senator John McCain and other Republicans, it could hasten negotiations that could lead to Assad’s resignation.

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