US prepared to carry out military options on Syria

Washington repositioned naval forces in the Mediterranean
US prepared to carry out military options on Syria
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to supporters after his victory speech at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (Getty Images)
By Reuters
Sun 25 Aug 2013 10:10 AM

The Pentagon is prepared to carry out military options on Syria should President Barack Obama choose to exercise any of them, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday.

"President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that and we are prepared to exercise whatever option - if he decides to employ one of those options," Hagel told reporters during a trip to Malaysia.

The comments came as the United States repositioned naval forces in the Mediterranean as it considers a possible military response to an alleged chemical attack near the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed hundreds.

Below are details of US, French and British forces in the region that could be involved in any attack.

UNITED STATES

A U.S. military source said on Friday the U.S. Navy was increasing its number of cruise missile-carrying destroyers in the Mediterranean to four from three by delaying the return to the United States of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Mahan.

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman, by far the most powerful warship in the region, left the Mediterranean last weekend, passing through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea.

Defence experts say the carrier could still strike Syria from south of Suez. As well as the strike aircraft carried by the Truman, several of her escort ships are also capable of firing Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles.

Since earlier this year, the United States has also had F-16 jets in Jordan, where they remained after a major military exercise this year at the request of the Jordanian government. It also has a major air base at Incirlik in Turkey that could easily house multiple aircraft as part of a wider military campaign.

FRANCE

Having completed a major refit in the past few weeks, the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is operational. Officials say she remains for now in the Mediterranean port of Toulon.

France also has Rafale and Mirage jets based in the United Arab Emirates that could potentially reach Syria.

BRITAIN

Without any operational aircraft carriers, Britain would likely be dependent on its cruise missile-carrying Trafalgar and Astute class attack submarines if it wished to join in any U.S.-led campaign.

Defence sources say the Royal Navy has kept at least one of its submarines in the Mediterranean in recent months partly for that reason.

Britain does not currently have any combat aircraft in the region, although they could theoretically operate from UK sovereign bases in Cyprus providing the local government agreed.

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