Hagel: Defense Department Has Options for Obama on Syria

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, briefs reporters Aug. 23, 2013, aboard a military plane on his way to Malaysia, where he will meet with Malaysian leaders, including Prime Minister Najib Razak and Defense Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. Hagel also responded to questions on the crisis in Syria

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Abroad A Military Aircraft – Shortly after takeoff on the first leg of his second official trip to the Asia-Pacific region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel joined a video teleconference with President Barack Obama’s senior national security advisors that focused on the deadly situation in Syria.

In the latest tragedy in the stricken nation, more than 1,000 men, women and children died in what may have been a chemical weapons attack on its own citizens by the government of President Bashar Assad. The United Nations and others are investigating the attacks.

After leaving Hawaii, the first stop on his trip, Hagel spoke today with reporters who are traveling with him to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.

“The president has asked the Defense Department for options. {As] always, the department is prepared, has been prepared, to provide ranges for all contingencies for the president of the United States, and we’ll continue to do that,” Hagel said.

“We’re dealing with a very serious issue,” the secretary added. “We are working with our international partners, the international community [and] the United Nations. We are looking at every option.”

Referring to an interview that Obama gave Chris Cuomo on CNN about Syria, Hagel said the president framed the situation there “exactly right” when he said the United States must be part of the international community in its response to the actions in Syria.

As the president noted, the secretary said, the United States must consider its long-term objectives, its long-term interests, and its objectives for influence and outcomes in deciding upon any response.

“The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces [and] positioning our assets to be able to carry out whatever options the president might choose,” Hagel said.

“On the specific option of military use or force in response to what we will determine at some point here very shortly what did happen, and we’re still assessing that,” he added. “I think the range of military options is always part of the range of options the president has.”

Hagel said he thinks the international community is moving quickly to get the facts and the intelligence right about what happened in Syria so a decision can be made swiftly about how to respond.

“If, in fact, this was a deliberate use and attack by the Syrian government on its own people using chemical weapons, there may be another attack coming,” he said. “A very quick assessment of what happened and whatever appropriate response should be made.”

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