Syria crisis: Obama hints at wider action against Assad

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
By Paul Martin
September 3, 2013

There are indications that President Obama is planning much wider military action against Syria’s Assad regime than previously thought.

Rather than a “shot across the bow” designed to dissuade the regime from further chemical weapons attacks, the military strike would seek to substantially “degrade” the Syrian government’s military capability.

Such an attack would target military aircraft, artillery and the rockets the White House believes were used to launch a sarin gas attack in the Damascus suburbs on 21 August.

The attack could be supported by an increase in US help for the Syrian rebels.

The notion that Obama is planning a more broad-reaching intervention emerged overnight after Republican senator John McCain attended a meeting at the White House.

McCain told the New York Times he was “encouraged” that the Obama administration was planning a military intervention that would substantially “degrade” Assad’s military capability while also lending more support to the Syria rebels.

No specific details of that support were discussed, McCain said.

The paper points out that McCain has previously said he would support US intervention in a Congress vote if “the president did more to arm the Syrian rebels and the attack was punishing enough to weaken the Syrian military.”

McCain says he was also informed by the White House that a covert effort by the US to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results. The first “50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the CIA” had begun operations in Syria, he said.

Republican senator Lindsay Graham, who also attended the meeting at the White House, said: “It is all in the details, but I left the meeting feeling better… that the purpose of the attack is going to be a little more robust than I thought.”

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