The reports coming out of Washington in the last 24 hours indicate that US President Barack Obama has resolved not just to degrade Syria’s chemical capabilities but also to take down Bashar Assad’s air force, destroy his air bases and knock out his ground-to-ground ballistic missiles, using giant B-52 bombers and B-2 stealth bombers. Some of the bombers will fly in directly from the US; others from the Al Udeid base in Qatar. F-22 Raptor fighter-bombers are also scheduled to take part in the US air offensive.
Obama decided to expand the scope of the US operation for Assad’s use of chemical warfare against civilians on Aug. 21, when his experts advised him that these additional blows would dramatically diminish the Syrianj ruler's military edge over rebel forces without toppling him. These air raids could moreover be conducted from afar without American aircraft coming within range of Syrian air defense batteries.
The US operation will also target the Syrian army’s 4th and Republican Guard divisions, protectors of the Assad presidency and regime, which were responsible for using chemical weapons, but not the weapons themselves. debkafile’s military sources say they can’t be destroyed by air assault – only by ground forces, which the US president has ruled out in advance.
It was that conclusion which led Washington to considering air strikes for taking down the ballistic missiles, which may be used as the vehicles for delivering the poison gases both within Syria and beyond its borders.
This expanded inventory of targets portends a broader operation in scope than Obama’s first plan, which was designed only to caution the Syrian ruler of his peril for engaging in chemical warfare. The extensions to this plan would go a lot further than a deterrent warning and seriously downgrade his military and strategic capabilities.
Russia and Iran are already getting set to replenish by air and sea the losses the US air and missile offensive is expected to inflict on the Syria military.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and ambassador to the UN Samantha Power stressed in the last few hours that the US felt fully justified in going forward against Syria’s use of chemical weapons without a UN mandate and, indeed, they indicated, the president would consider such action “the right thing to do” even if US Congress withheld its support.
For now, Obama will be spending all his time on a blitz to win lawmakers round to the strike against Syria, while Kerry seeks European and Arab partners for the operation, in addition to France which has already come forward.