With official confirmation coming from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the United States' readiness to strike, at the time of posting, it's surely a mere matter of hours before the United States launches missiles in retaliation for chemical weapons usage by the Assad regime in Syria.
Regardless of whether an attack takes place, this article will attempt to focus the media frenzy surrounding the possibility of a U.S. strike against Syria from a variety of sources, and assure readers that it is unlikely that World War III will start in the next day.
As of this posting, President Obama is continually refusing the suggestion that he has already authorized an attack, although he has concluded along with Vice President Biden that "[Syria] in fact carried these [chemical weapon attacks] out. And if that's so, there needs to be international consequences... We do not believe given the delivery system using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks." Obama has also been working closely with the UK's prime minister, David Cameron, in coordinating the response along with the French and German governments.
An LA Times article from last evening involved discussions with both current and former U.S. officials, who confirm that a U.S. attack on Syria would take place at night and involve fiery explosions at military bases, targeted artillery pieces, and a variety of regime strongholds. Assad's defenses would likely involve a bunch of flak anti-air guns trying to shoot down the Tomahawk missiles. Analysts speaking with the Times said that if President Obama wants more targets destroyed, the Pentagon may use warplanes in concert with the guided cruise missiles.
Because of Syria's recent chemical weapons activity, Obama has indicated that the halting of chemical weapon proliferation would be a priority for a strike. That does not mean that they will drop cruise missiles on chemical weapons sites; planners are far too worried that such tactics would unleash truckloads of toxins.
Strike planners don't intend to destroy Assad's conventional war forces, instead choosing to target Assad's most loyal units that assisted in the carrying out of the August 21 chemical attack: "They want to send a signal that those units are being targeted as much as possible because of their specific involvement" in the deployment of chemical weapons, one official told the LA Times.
Syria attempted to step up its own rhetoric when a senior official said earlier this week that any international attack would be met by Syrian defenses, and that such an attack would create a "chaos" that could threaten global stability.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad, speaking to the AP, said on Monday that "there will be no international military intervention... If individual countries want to pursue aggressive and adventurous policies, the natural answer ... would be that Syria, which has been fighting against terrorism for almost three years, will also defend itself against any international attack."
Mikdad went on to say that each country will bear responsibility for the thousands of innocents who will die because of the "criminal actions against a sovereign country...Syria will not be an easy target." Mikdad refused to go into detail about what Syria's actual tactics might be, giving as much credibility to his country's chest-thumping as the Syrian Presidency's Instagram account gives to the regime.
Some news outlets have speculated about a variety of Islamist groups' response to a U.S. assault on Syria. However, since the Iranian scientists were killed, Iran's ability to orchestrate terror attacks has all but faded away, and Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center between 2007 and 2011, was quoted by the Daily Beast as saying "it is more likely Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives would target U.S., Israeli, and Western assets in Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region." Take a deep breath, reader: extremist attacks on U.S. soil itself or on U.S. forces in the Mediterranean in retaliation for the bombing of Syria would be highly unlikely.
If you want to read possible repercussions, an ABC News story via Yahoo has five interesting hypotheticals, but they are just hypotheticals.[Image via a Youtube video of the USS Stout launching a cruise missile]