WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will meet with his national security advisers early on Saturday at the White House to discuss reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons this week in an attack on a Damascus suburb, a White House official said in a statement.
Obama has been reluctant to intervene in Syria’s 2-1/2-year civil war, which he has described as a “sectarian complex problem.” But a year ago he said chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the United States, and he is now under pressure to take action.
“We have a range of options available, and we are going to act very deliberately so that we’re making decisions consistent with our national interest as well as our assessment of what can advance our objectives in Syria,” the White House official said.
The U.S. Navy repositioned a ship armed with cruise missiles in the Mediterranean on Friday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Obama had asked the Pentagon for options on Syria.
American and European security sources said on Friday that U.S. and allied intelligence agencies had made a preliminary assessment that chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces in the attack near Damascus this week.
“As we have previously stated, the President has directed the intelligence community to gather facts and evidence so that we can determine what occurred in Syria. Once we ascertain the facts, the President will make an informed decision about how to respond,” the White House official said.