U.S. Missile Strikes Against Syria Could Happen as "Early as Thursday"

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 27 2013 9:50 AM

U.S. Missile Strikes Against Syria Could Happen as "Early as Thursday"

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An image grab from a video showing opposition fighters taking cover from an attack by regime forces and then retaliating by firing a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) on August 26, 2013 during clashes over the strategic area of Khanasser, situated on the only road linking Aleppo to central Syria

Photo by Salah al-Ashkar/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear yesterday that American action in Syria is now a matter of when and not if. Thanks to NBC News, we now have an idea of when that when might be:

Missile strikes against Syria could be launched "as early as Thursday," senior U.S. officials said Tuesday as the White House intensified its push toward an international response to the suspected use of chemical weapons. The "three days" of strikes would be limited in scope, and aimed at sending a message to the regime of Syria President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News. ...
The U.S. officials reiterated that any military action would not aim to kill Assad and would be limited because the goal would be to respond to the use of chemical weapons. Command and control bunkers, airfields and artillery would be targeted.
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Complicating an already complicated situation, however, is the fact that the U.N. team of inspectors investigating the alleged (and almost certain) chemical-weapon attacks is still on the ground in Syria and isn't scheduled to leave until Sunday. The unnamed U.S. officials, somewhat confusingly, told NBC that an attack is unlikely while the inspectors remains in Syria—comments that left it unclear whether that means the plan would be to pull them out early or to simply wait.

The report comes one day after Kerry declared that it was "undeniable" that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons in Syria, and promised that the Obama administration will hold the government there accountable for what he called a "moral obscenity."

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.