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Obama’s Syria options: Military strike? Will U.S. go it alone?
Following Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its civilians on Aug. 21–crossing President Barack Obama’s “red line”–the U.S. is looking at a variety of options.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama continued to map strategy, speaking by phone with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to, according to the White House, discuss “their grave concern” over the apparent use of chemical weapons by the regime led by Syria’s Bashar al Assad. Obama and Harper “pledged to continue to consult closely on potential responses by the international community.”
Earlier, Obama conferred with British Prime Minister David Cameron about the situation in Syria.
Among the options, factors and issues to consider about the next steps the U.S. takes over Syria:
Go it alone?
That’s what the U.S. is trying to avoid.
Deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria?
No one is talking about that alternative.
Fighter jet or missile strikes
An option—but finding the right targets—chemical weapons factories or distribution centers—will be a challenge. The U.S. has four warships in the Mediterranean within cruise missile striking distance.
Not a practical alternative in the short-term.
Building a coalition
Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are trying to cobble together a “coalition of the willing.”
In Indonesia on Monday, Hagel said, “We’re working with our allies and with the international community. We are analyzing the intelligence, and we will get the facts. And if there is any action taken, then it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of — of legal justification.”
International organization buy-in
So far, the U.S. has not been able to put together a Syria action plan with the major international players—the UN, EU, Arab League and NATO.
The Obama team will have to decide whether to seek approval from Congress before taking military action. If some kind of strike came soon—let’s say this week—the congressional recess will provide cover for the administration.
Arm or otherwise assist Syria rebel forces
It’s not clear to the U.S. whether weapons sent to rebels will remain in the right hands. The U.S. did pledge to send some military aid to rebel forces earlier this year.