“The United States is looking at all options regarding the situation in Syria,” Hagel was quoted as saying by Britain’s Telegraph. “We’re working with our allies and with the international community. We are analyzing the intelligence, and we will get the facts. And if there’s any action taken, then it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification,” said the Defense Secretary.
Reports that still have not been confirmed have alleged that more than 1,300 Syrian civilians were killed in an attack by Syrian government forces near Damascus on August 21 that used chemical weapons. President Obama’s Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest posted a statement on the White House website that same day that condemned chemical weapons but carefully avoided making unproven charges against the Assad regime.
In an interview on CNN’s New Day program on August 23, President Obama — when asked about allegations made by anti-government activists in Syria that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons — said that officials are “right now gathering information” and that “what we’ve seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern.”
A news article posted on the Department of Defense website on August 23 quoted Hagel’s statement to reporters, as he embarked on his trip to Asia: “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.”
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Photo of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia: AP Images