The United States is ready to strike Syria’s air force and suspected munition sites to blunt the regime’s ability to fight off the various rebel groups fighting to bring down President Bashar al Assad.
To date, there has been no major shifting of U.S. forces toward the region, an indication the Pentagon and White House are looking at limited strikes by cruise missiles and not an all-out air war such as the ones launched in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
The Navy has bolstered the number of missile-carrying destroyers and cruisers in the Eastern Mediterranean. Technicians can program the rockets with the global-positioning system to precisely hit collections of helicopters or airplanes, a munitions dump suspected of holding chemical weapons, and command centers that might be occupied by senior generals, or Mr. Assad himself.
Libya, the scene of the most recent American major air campaign, saw hundreds of NATO aircraft, bolstered by ship-to-shore missiles, strike a wide array of military targets, including ones thought to hold Libya dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has expressed deep reservations about any direct military action in Syria, where the number of rebel groups exceed 50 and al Qaeda is growing in influence.
This suggests that the campaign would be highly restricted, if President Obama does approve strikes as a response to Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians last week.