Chuck Hagel: US 'Ready' for Military Action in Syria

Secretary of defense says American military is ready to comply with any order from President Obama.
24:57 | 08/27/13

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Transcript for Chuck Hagel: US 'Ready' for Military Action in Syria
This is a special group. Report from ABC news. I'm Dan New York disease and -- special report. The US he is lying targets in Syria as missile strikes appear no longer to be a question of if if but rather when a defiant Syrian government's and that he will defend itself in every way possible. He sees them on Bradley is following this tense buildup to -- -- and the Syrian government denies it was behind last week's alleged chemical attack. And is vowing to defend itself as the US inches closer to a strike. The US is moving closer to taking military action in Syria. Targets have been identified. And in an interview with the BBC Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says military assets are in place the United States department -- defense is ready to. Carry out those options. Several key US allies have indicated their support for a strong response I think they have to reestablish some degree of credibility and deterrence. Not only for Syria but for the broader region the Arab League today blamed the Syrian government for last week's poison gas attack. British parliament has been called back for Thursday's session to vote on a response to Syria and the prime minister spokesman says. British armed forces are making contingency plans. And today Australia's prime minister expressed grave concern over Syria. I don't believe the world can simply turn a blind -- To the use of chemical weapons against -- civilian population resulting in nearly 300 days or more. While the White House says President Obama has not yet made a decision is possible options include. Launching cruise missiles from navy destroyers are long range bombers in a strike that would last two to three days. Officials say it would be a limited attack US now want to get involved in the Syrian civil war. The UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria are delaying their second trip today they want to improve safety after their vehicles were struck by a sniper fire yes. -- -- tomorrow -- to find out a little more about what the what the White House is saying have they indicated if in fact involvement does occur. If they would outline what the strategy might be ahead of time or would it be take action and then release that information. We'll certainly Dan President Obama has been phoning world leaders updating them on the situation trying to figure out exactly what to do the White House says that the president. Has not made a final decision but we do anticipate -- that we will likely see the White House make its legal case -- -- the legal basis for such a strike. All right ABC's come on Bradley and washed into month thank you for your time -- for your -- I want to bring an -- -- that Schiffer who was in London. And nick if he can I -- to play a few more clips from the BBC interview with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and we in particular one. Where he is talking about the origins of that chemical attack. Things pretty clear. That chemical weapons were used against people in Syria. I think that the intelligence world will conclude. That it wasn't the rebels who used it. The deeper we get into this if it seems to me it's clear and clear that the government of Syria was responsible. And so an -- and the question then becomes of the White House the first was somewhat hesitant to pin that origins of the attack. And now it seems as if and that interview and more information is coming out it seems that there's a higher level of confidence from the White House. I think it's very clear that what's happening in London and Paris. And Washington. Is that. The allies are trying to get ahead of anything that the UN says the UN chemicals -- chemical weapon inspectors will be there for about two weeks are scheduled to be there. For about two weeks and yet. Secretary of state John Kerry you saw secretary defense -- -- the prime minister of Britain David Cameron have all come out. And said we think we know what's happened and yet we're looking at facts but really we think we know -- happened and it can't go on on responded to they're using double negatives right now and so what we're trying to see what we're seeing. Is all of these allies trying to come together and get ahead of anything that the UN does. Get ahead of any inspection. Report that comes out of Syria and say we think that we know what happened we have our own intelligence and we're gonna respond and the Arab League has come on in blamed Damascus for this attack. When that kind of condemnation comes across -- -- influence what kind of legitimacy does that bring to this whole situation. I think it helps I'm sure that you'll see Washington for -- referencing the Arab League endorsement but it's not a big surprise the Arab League is led. By Saudi -- cuts -- two countries that have already come out and blamed Syrian president Bashar Assad. For this attack using chemical weapons and have long since -- the last couple years supported the rebels and no one's really surprised at that but what's clearly happening it as to months piece pointed out -- kind of the drum beats of war. Are are really gaining. For -- volume. In Washington in London you can get the British parliament is -- -- reported. Back in town tomorrow. That debate is going to be very public very open and I think what everyone is hoping when everyone is expecting in the White House and in London is a consensus on okay. Let's go for with some kind of surgical attack but that does not mean that there's any clear exit from this conflict. The US can launch weapons from the Mediterranean from jets but. Still we haven't heard of any plan yet on how to get out of that -- what happens if Syria chooses to respond and on that strain of trying to build a consensus within the international community secretary of defense hagel. Had spoke specifically about that about the possible UN involvement in US decisions -- -- play a portion of that year. No nation no group of nations is is bound by only one. Dimension of whether they'd make -- decision to respond. To any self defense or or any other violation. So does that quiet the response from any critics that might be concerned -- fact that the US if in fact in the country does take action. That it would not be a go it alone type of approach. Let's -- -- beta stage here what what people are talking about whether -- -- or Kerry or William Hague the British. Foreign secretary. What -- language that people are using is because of -- rock. Everybody knows what happened with Iraq and so what the US and London seem to be doing now is saying. Even before the weapons inspectors -- and out of Syria even before the Security Council may or may not debater response or even pass a resolution. Proposing a response or endorsing a response which is. Pretty unlikely the west is clearly saying we don't need to wait for the UN and that means that the White House in consultation with London. And Paris and some other allies seem to be going forward and seem to be suggesting that they will be able to respond -- this whether or not the UN weapons inspectors. Find the smoking gun and I should say that the weapons inspectors are supposed to be there for two weeks. It'll be very interesting to see when the UN pulls them out because it's very unlikely that there -- be an American strike inside Syria we -- with a group of UN scientists still inside so play this out that he can't -- next when you've got powerful large nations like China and Russia senate they don't want the US to get involved without. -- any kind of approval from the UN Security Council and let's say the US does go forward with missile strikes what is the potential fallout from -- kind of reaction. Well court where in what ifs here and and it's truly dangerous. In the Middle East to go down the what if road then I'll just quote. A column. That appeared here in in the times newspaper just last week that compared to what's -- -- To August 1914. And for our historically astute viewers August 14 was of course the beginning of World War I and so -- -- some people who are saying wait a minute you know. Do you understand what could happen. If you attack Syria and has a lot of people saying that and I think within the White House for the last two years in fact. Most of the people winning the foreign policy argument were saying just that. What happens if we get involved would you know -- What's our real natural and -- national. Security interest in with with intervening in a civil war in Syria and don't we understand that this could unleash these. Events that we have no control over and we don't want but clearly this is a red line is the president. Has said that Syria has crossed. And the fear is that they're gonna try and minimize this they're gonna try and say look this is a very strategic strike. On military institutions or government institutions this is not about. Intervening in the civil war this is not even about the humanitarian. Crisis catastrophe that is happening we've got over two million refugees this is simply a surgical strike but a lot of the critics say well. If Syria responds they can respond lots of ways Iran one of Syria's allies could respond by firing. Into Israel so there's a lot of things that could happen I think this a lot of people worry about what could happen. Once this strike takes place well in -- wanted to ask you about that -- mean regarding a US involvement and support the might be coming from the country. What about congressional approval -- is or possibly that the president might call congress back early. To discuss this. Yeah I mean -- that -- question. Really references the whole point congress isn't in town it's Labor Day on Monday. And they're not back till next week the president travels to Sweden and Russia the middle of the next week he would be probably. Inclined not to launch any attack while out of the country so we're talking about a window of less than a week here. In the last thirty years. You know US president has really said it needed congressional approval to launch the kind of strike the President Obama seems to be. Thinking about or the next week of course before that time there was lots of precedence for asking congress -- that he certainly doesn't need to. But if he wants some kind of political cover -- he can and we saw something very similar happened in the last twelve hours in the UK. British prime minister David Cameron has done exactly that. He is called. Parliament back to session. On Thursday and they were on -- on vacation until. Next week as well -- the president does not have to do. But if he does want some fluke recoveries gonna have to do it and the next day or so all right -- -- in London for -- next thank you for that inspect and speaking of the White House a wanna go to. DC right now where White -- Press Secretary Jay Carney is briefing the press let's listen in this week obviously is a response to a specific. Violation of international norms and I think it's important. The I was asked about this yesterday I think it's important to. Look at what we're talking about when we talk about. International norms. The effort to. Deal with this scourge of chemical weapons has been. Undertaken at an international level since the mid nineteenth century and in particular since the end of World War I when. Forces on both sides of that conflict engaged in horrific abuse of poison gas. The chemical weapons convention. Has more than -- 150 signatories. And makes clear that the use and proliferation of chemical weapons. Is a clear violation. International -- And that. It is absolutely in the national security interest of the United States and in the international community that the use of chemical weapons on the scale that we saw on August -- -- first. Cannot be. Ignore it must be responded to because to allow it to. Happen. Without a response. Would be to invite further use of chemical weapons and to have that that. International standard. Dissolved and the consequences of that given the volatility of the region. And the concerns that this nation and many others have about proliferation. Of chemical weapons. Would be very serious indeed. Have. I don't want say that there were games going on -- question. You're saying that there won't be. I'm definitely not -- You're saying that there will be responsible for but the president has not made -- decision yet. It is safe to say -- at this point that -- that the Syrian government will pay a price. What has there must be a response secretary Kerry made that clear at the president's instruction yesterday I echoed that here yesterday and -- doing it again today there must -- a response we cannot. Allow this kind of violation. Of an international norm -- -- all the attendant. Grave consequences that it represents to go. Unanswered. What form that responsible take is what the president is. Assessing now with his team. And weighs its options. Does he want to take out a -- and -- his death. Case welcomed. -- White House I appreciate the question I want to make clear. Did the options we're considering we're not about regime change. They are about responding to. A clear violation. Of an international standard that prohibits the use chemical weapons. We are also. Very much engaged in an effort to support the opposition in its. Struggle with the Asad regime has the -- regime continues to try to massacre its own people in an effort to maintain. Now. And it is our firm conviction that serious future cannot include. Aside in power but this. This deliberation and the actions that we are contemplating. Or not about regime. And we believe as I said earlier in answer -- question that. Resolution of this conflict. Has to come through political negotiation and settlement. And has so much blood and treasure. Stolen special -- Afghanistan and Iraq. If some sort of military action we take take and obviously the -- Talking about the American people but how how much should the American people expect prepare themselves work in terms of sacrifices being made by. People inside the armed forces and farther cost estimates being when the other terms of how much -- going to cost and -- runs up against them that's. Expect. All excellent questions most of them assuming. A decision has been made. And I'm not going to sort of speculate about. A decision that hasn't made him. So I a lot of questions. Will certainly take once the president has. Announced the course of action -- he's chosen. What I can tell you is the president is make clear that he does not envision situations. In Syria that would lead to. US boots on the ground and that remains the case. And I've also tried to make clear -- Trying to see yes. Theoretically speaking. But I think the president's been clear about that Jim and I think that that applies generally to the Syrian conflict but also specifically to the responses contemplated here. With regards -- -- Use of chemical weapons. Christian. This is so clear. The White House decided that you must be in response. Does that mean that there must -- a military response where there are other things possible still on the -- just couldn't be. Further sanctions or. Economic and anyway or is this a military response it. We'll say two things. First we have made clear for a long time notwithstanding. Our views about. The fact that we don't envision US boots on the ground in Syria that we. Retain and the president retains all options available to him. In Syria and that includes military. Options and that is the case here in response to this transgression. But a decision about the use of military force has not been made. The president is reviewing his options floral. And obviously his options. Are many and they include a variety of possibilities that are not limited to. The use of force. One and ask you that is them -- -- you say that. That the reason why -- -- -- this -- -- the decision that. The Syrian government was responsible for this happens because they have the rock instantly. And here is no evidence that they. But we sure there's no evidence that they've lost any control. Any stockpiles of chemical weapons is our intelligence that there's not. Where it's been overrun by. Al-Qaeda forces or whether. Revels in that country we know. We. A high degree of confidence. Based on our assessments that the Syrian regime has maintained full control. Of its chemical weapons stockpiles throughout this conflict. It is our conviction -- The Syrian regime. Has the rocket capability that was employed. To devastating effect in this chemical weapons attack. It is abundantly obvious to those who have covered this conflict to -- we're covering it last week. To the international organizations present on the ground. Did the Syrian regime was engaged in an effort to clear these particular regions. Opposition forces. -- Violent force prior to the use of chemical weapons and in the immediate aftermath of the use chemical weapons. Prevented the UN inspections -- from going in to establish a weapons have been used as they continued to bombarded it. And they continue to do that yesterday after the UN inspection team finally after being attacked was able to make it to. One area that they needed to visit after they left they continue to -- the area which is clear effort to. Try to dispose of evidence. Is one -- that is. Yet. Fifty years is to make sure to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons. And two. The stores and from using them again. There are those who argue that the best way to do that isn't back to take out and to take out aside and it -- regime change. What is the argument against that from the White House from those. We're calling for -- good good well as eyes noted earlier. The -- options that are being considered. Are not. -- do not contain within them a regime change. Focus. And that is not what we are contemplating here we are we are examining options. To respond to this violation. And as I tried to say yesterday this is. Obviously. Terrible conflict -- has exacted a horrific price on the Syrian people and the region. And it is ongoing and we have stepped up our support for the opposition and our humanitarian support for the Syrian people and for the countries that are. Dealing with the refugee crisis related to the Syrian conflict. The use of chemical weapons on the skill that we saw. Is -- separate and distinct. The fact that needs to be responded to. And it will be responded to. In some form because the president believes and many of our allies and partners clearly believe and I as I stated earlier. And I under arrest I understated the number of nations who have participated in the chemical weapons convention is a 189. Nations representing about 98% of the global population. All have a stake. In ensuring that that international norm. Is maintain and respected. And so a clear violation of -- a flagrant violation. That has resulted in mass death. The killing of innocent women and children. Has to be response. -- -- my question is. What is the response as to. It is if the way to do this this and say is to prevent it from happening again is to take got a guy is doing it what's the reason why -- -- -- you White House doesn't want you back. Michael -- is not our position it is not our policy position. To respond to this. Through regime change we will take an appropriate response. And we are evaluating the president and his team are Valerie evaluating options available to them. And the president will. Making assessment and an announcement. In due time. We also maintain a policy with regard to the conflict which. Has us providing significant support to the opposition significant humanitarian support to the Syrian people this is designed to help bring about. Transition in Syria a political transition that will allow Syria. The future that is people deserves. That's -- -- The -- -- is not our policy to respond to this transgression. With regime change. I'm sorry for the united me. Our trees. -- -- listening to white house Press Secretary Jay Carney has some reporters' questions there. Repeating the stance from the White House that there must be a response. From the use of chemical weapons. In Syria and I wanna bring in ABC's -- Schiffer who was in London's standing by and -- you've been listening to that news conference as well. The line that there must be a response has nothing that hasn't been said yesterday and obviously repeated again today but today. Jay -- seemed pretty steadfast. And we just heard from -- asking him there about what the White House might do. Specifically and Jay Carney saying it is not about regime change that at any kind of US involvement would not mean. Trying to take down the -- leadership is that sound like a very resolute position or is assuming there could be in fact some wiggle room. -- I'm not sure there is wiggle room I think that it's very clear what everyone is talking about here which is missile strikes sent into Syria from very far from Syria whether from the ship in the Mediterranean or fighter jets hovering above one of these neighboring countries but you heard Jay Carney. Try and distinguish. Why there Tryon. To why they would attack he says with outer response would be to invite. Further use and that's I think the language there weren't any here out of Washington Paris and London for the next couple days this is a response to chemical weapons used this is not a response to the civil war this is not a response -- humanitarian. Catastrophe this is a response to the use of chemical weapons and -- Jim was was arguing with Jay Carney. You know a lot of people question. Whether. A couple of cruise missiles. Going into Syria will really stop a dictator who's fighting for his survival from using chemical weapons again you know we have really no window here. Into whether anyone in the Syrian regime believes that this was any kind of had any kind of effectiveness. In their in their fight against the rebels this have been going on for two years -- -- is fighting for his existence fighting for his and his -- life. And he has proven he's willing. To really do anything to survive. And there's a big question. Being asked by many today OK if you do launch this attack. With cruise missiles from the Mediterranean or from fighter jets from far from Syrian borders are you really going to be able to prevent president Assad. From launching another chemical weapons attack the White House seems to think that this response will a lot of people -- question. -- that right now all right ABC's -- friend for us in London next thank you for that. And we do have a complete report on these developments including the latest on that press briefing from Jay Carney the White House there on the developments in Syria and possible US involvement. Militarily. For now I'm Dan -- -- New York with the CBC news digital special report. This has been a special report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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