Forces were ready to strike Syria, surprised by Obama decision
September 4th, 2013
04:27 PM ET

Forces were ready to strike Syria, surprised by Obama decision

By Chris Lawrence

U.S. forces in the Middle East tasked with carrying out military action against Syria were ready to go this past weekend and were caught off guard by President Barack Obama's decision to first seek congressional approval.

Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean equipped with cruise missiles had ramped up operations from the previous week, thinking they would be ordered to launch a strike as early as Saturday.

"I thought that was the night," a Defense Department official told CNN.

"We were standing multiple watches. Everyone was pretty sure it was going to happen," the official added.

He said the sudden change in direction from the White House late on Friday was surprising.

"The tempo went from 'go-go-go' to nothing," he said.

The official said key units are now in a "strategic, operational pause" as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel make their case to Congress for a limited military strike to degrade Syria's ability to launch chemical weapons.

"No additional watches, back to normal business," according to the official, who noted that military forces would be ready if asked to take action.

The official requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information.

Hagel told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that the military would be ready to carry out the mission, if ordered.

Congressional lawmakers have expressed a preference for a proposal that would put time constraints on any operation and prohibit the use of American ground forces.

Kerry was asked at the hearing about Obama's decision to go to Congress on Syria even though officials say he has the authority to act without lawmaker approval in this instance.

"What the president said was he felt strongly for us to be in our strongest posture, that the United States needs to speak with one voice," Kerry said.

The White House argues that delaying action in a bid to get congressional approval would ultimately strengthen Obama's position diplomatically.

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Filed under: Military • Navy • Syria
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Augustus Collura

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    March 6, 2021 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  2. acsj

    not attacking Syria was one of the few thing Pres Obama has done right, now if we could just get him to stop funding AlQaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood the world would be a better place

    September 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  3. Skorpio

    Russians know pretty well the Islamic MO because they've experienced it for many centuries. Russia can not entirely blame Al-Assad for the atrocities committed in Syria because ALL Islamic parties involved (rebels, terrorists, Arab Spring, radicals, Islamists, government officials, insurgents, Muslim monarchs and clerics) are basically the same kind of manure but with different texture and odor.

    September 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  4. john smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    September 7, 2013 at 12:29 am | Reply
    • acsj

      hopefully you are paid to be this stupid

      September 29, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  5. Mr. Riozo

    MARVIN GAYE sang ......... War is not the answer For only love can conquer know we have got to find a way to bring some lovin here today,,,,,, Stop the hate and posturing for no amount of love can help those that hate the U.S. History will commend the Great Satan for shedding the blood of their servicemen in helping those that hate us [ KUWAIT, BOSNIA, SOMALIA, IRAQ ,AFGHANISTAN, LIBYA, NOW SYRIA ) Assad Engages in destroying his people instead of transitioning peacefully and not F ing it up for when he leaves or do they honestly believe if he wins he wont continue to oppress such a wonderful people with his terror. Pres. Obama should remind the world of 9/11 and our committment to the war on terror. Government sponsored or not. All people have inalienable rights. The idiots are truly believers that the U.S. and Israel are the terrors to peace. Stop believing your own hype and look at the rationale of this war footing. We attack to make the world safer for us, period. THE DIFFERENT SECTS OF ISLAM HAVE NO LOVE FOR EACH OTHER AS THE record shows. No amount of goodwill will affect the sensibilities of a people that are constantly feuding over sheep grazing rights let alone tolerance of which branch of Islam they wish to follow. Personally I cannot wait til the end when Jesus or Mohammed or Budda or the toothfairy or the Easterbunny or whoever it is that the true God of us all puts in charge of Judgement. The clamor of the millions of displaced refugees in Jordan and Turkey pray for U.S. Military intervention. To do nothing whilst innocent blood is spilling will make the hate prosper. Condemn the true culprit not ones that try to help. As a former U.S. Marine the axiom holds true to me: PEACE THRU SUPERIOR FIREPOWER. GIVE THE REBELS WHAT THEY NEED TO END IT. WHATEVER COMES AFTER WILL SURELY BE BLAMED ON THE AMERICANS BUT TO LET IT CONTINUE........ PLEASE. I DONT SEE ANY ARAB STATE OR MUSLIM REPUBLIC LIFTING A FINGER LET ALONE ORGANIZING A NAVAL OR AIR FLEET TO STOP THE MASSACRE. WAIT TIL ASAAD IS DEPOSED WHEN TRUE HORROR STORIES COME TO LIGHT. THE BACKLASH FROM THE INTERVENTION HAS BEGUN EVEN WITHOUT IT HAVING HAPPENED. WE TAKE OUT THEIR RADARS AND ARTY AND ROCKET LAUNCHERS AND WITHIN A WEEK THE RUSSIANS AND CHINESE RESUPPLY THEM. DURING THE NO FLY ZONES IN IRAQ I SAW THE NEWS EVERYDAY OF U.S. AIR POWER CONSTANTLY TAKING OUT MISSILES AND RADAR KNOCKED OUT . HUMMMH. ENUFF ALREADY. RODNEY KING SAID CANT WE ALL GET ALONG. AND TO THOSE PROTESTING I VALUE YOUR OPINIONS. BUT OUR ACTIONS ARE NOT STARTING A WAR. ITS BEEN ON FOR THE LAST 2 YEARS. WHERE ARE YOUR PROTESTS AT THE SYRIAN MISSION TO THE U.N. THIS WILL SHORTEN THE WAR. OR DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE RUSSIAN AIR FORCE WILL RISE TO CHALLENGE THE U.S. NAVY AND AIR FORCE AND SAVE SYRIA FROM THE ABSURD AGRESSION OF THE WARMONGERING IMPERIALIST/ ZIONIST. AGAIN STOP BELIEVING YOUR HYPE AND MAN UP AND CALL A SPADE, A SPADE. IF I OFFENDED ANYONE WITH THIS DIATRIBE, .......... I MEANT IT.

    September 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  6. fed up

    The Republicans spend everyday, waiting for Obama to do something, so they can start impeachment charges on him. Obama knows this, that's why he didn't bomb Syria last weekend.

    September 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  7. Charles

    I support the President, but he waffled badly on this issue. The show of force should have never been shown if it was not intended to be used. I learned early in life by my grandfather, never pull out a firearm unless you intend to use it, the President pulled out his big guns but only as a threat.

    September 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Reply
  8. Charlie Baldwin

    Green Light. Poison all your Brethren. Kill em all....

    September 5, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  9. Mary Karanta

    Lucky that Obama put the brakes on and he should put permanent brakes on this bombing idea or we might have to change the name of the oval office to the square office.

    September 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  10. lance

    how come this president cant seem to ever work on the U.S. ECONOMY and NATIONAL DEBT always fails on these attemps and sidetracks the american public on some wastefull money endeavor that just adds more debt on the country ???

    September 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  11. Mike

    He`ll do it anyways. Media will give a pass, like we expect, and dailykos will write about how he restored the power to the presidency etc.

    September 5, 2013 at 11:55 am | Reply
  12. SWOhio

    Can the folks claiming Obama is shooting (no pun intended) for what will be 'surgical strikes' explain how those will not kill Human Shields that are already being moved into the potential target areas?

    September 5, 2013 at 11:02 am | Reply
    • Mary Karanta

      A million innocent civilian Syrain citizens THUMBS UP!!! -– ( and a million exclamation marks).....

      September 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  13. Random

    I wonder how our guys feel about being asked to help Al qaeda? I mean we have video of them chanting alah akbar , we know they are working with AQ, we know the same guys we were fighting in iraq and afganistan etc are now fighting there, and we would be helping them.

    Does no one have issue with helping cannibals and terrorists? OHH NOES the bad evil people are slaughtering each other..... Can't you just sit back and be content at that? I don't see a moral obligation to step in when both sides are doing things that imho rank up there with CW.

    We are arming our enemy, the same enemy we just spent 10+ years supposedly weakening.

    September 5, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply
  14. Craig Doherty

    The implication of this article is that having the sailors ramp up preparations and then stand down is degrading their ability to do battle when the order actually comes. Chris Lawrence apparently doesn't know much about how we operate. Those ships and boats in the area have been doing drills for these scenarios long before the last few days. You train like you fight and manning Battle Stations a couple of extra times is only helping to sharpen their edge. Our forces take their orders from Washington when those orders are issued and they'll be ready to strike when called upon to do so or stand by at length if that is our chosen course of action. Nobody on those vessels want to go to war but nobody is more ready and capable to do so, when and if, the call to strike is made. Anybody that has served in the Navy is more than familiar with the phrase: "Hurry up and wait."

    September 5, 2013 at 7:51 am | Reply
    • Trevor

      @Craig, or they're going through their "mill-around checklist". Don't you just love the dry-heaves...

      September 5, 2013 at 9:50 am | Reply
  15. George patton

    yup me too; I was surprised by Obama's decision too.

    September 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Well posted, George. Thank you

      September 4, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      I wasn't, Phunnie boy. Anything that butcher Obama does should no longer be any surprise to anyone anymore! By the way, did you usurp Patrick's name too?

      September 4, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Reply
      • Mr. Riozo


        September 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
      • George patton

        Obama not a butcher, Mr. Riozo? Try telling that to the people on the receiving end to his ungodly drones! The Syrians will be glad to hear that too, after 15 to 20,000 of them have already been slaughtered by one of those Tomahawk missiles!!! Get serious, will you?

        September 5, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
      • Rick from L.A.

        The tomahawk strike will be largely symbolic. no missile will target a civilian area. though a few may get shot down over a city and cause unintended damage.

        September 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm |
    • StanCalif

      Obama is no fool! He has to deal with a dysfunctional Congress everyday. I applaud him for placing any new war on the shoulders of such a big bunch of fools that can't come together and govern our own country! The days of "cowboy" presidents is over! Another new war is just unthinkable! Make these idiots in Congress make some decisions for once! If you want war, say so. Then come up with a plan to pay for it! "No boots on the ground" is absurd! When you start a war, you need to be able and willing to win it! GWB won nothing, how much did he and Dick Cheney cost us? Far, far too much! We simply cannot repeat such disasters! Dick dreamed of Iraqi oil riches to pay off our stupid adventure. We never got one drop! What does Syria have that we need so badly? NOTHING!

      September 4, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Reply
      • Trevor

        Stan...they are different levels of military "action" nations take to influence events and "boots on the ground" isn't necessarily one of them. If you're going to come into a forum like this, make sure you're educated on the topic being discussed, otherwise your creditability is in the toilet, like it is a the current moment.

        September 5, 2013 at 9:55 am |
      • Stormy

        " If you want war, say so" Wait a minute there. Congress was not the one that was rattling sabres about attacking Syria. It was Obama. Your question should be addressed to Obama. Does he want war, just say so. In any event, it is all a wag teh dog tale anyway. This is mis-directon from something else. Experience tells us that we need to watch the other hand with this group.

        September 5, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  16. arappmem

    Saeed, what an idiot. Iran doesn't have a single class of warship to go toe to toe with an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. All of Iran's destroyers are former WWII US Destroyers and 1 form 1946 built former British Destroyer. US destroyers currently of the coast of Syria are state of the art armed to the teeth and brandishing the latest in 3D radar, LAMPS and a whole array of countermeasures. You guys are nuts. Their ability to engage multiple targets simultaneous could probably handle both the Syrian and Iranians...on a bad day. Go smoke your hookah.

    September 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Reply
    • former USN

      Iran might not go at our Naval Force as you should know those tankers out therre in the gulf are not Arleigh Burke clones. Those tankers are large slow moving targets that Iran can easily sink. If you recall the USS Stark was hit but a Iraqi Exocet and it killed 37 sailors. You might also consider the Russian Navy might not like cruise missiles flying over the waves in their area. Never ever underestamate a enemy John McCain OUGHT TO KNOW THAT!

      September 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Reply
      • StanCalif

        John McCain needs to retire and shut up! Does he even remember Sarah Palin? His "wise choice" for a running mate?

        September 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
      • Rick from L.A.

        Yeah but Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar may not take to kindly to Iran closing their cash flow. They already offered to pay the cost for the US to bomb Syria, imagine if Iran did something foolish.

        September 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Steve

      That is a rather optimistic assessment. Advances in anti ship missles (cheaper, faster, and longer range), have made the playing field a little more level.

      September 4, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Reply
    • NNN

      Does Iran have warships in the Mediterranean???

      September 4, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Reply
  17. saeed

    look at those rusty and old war ships that piece of garbage is going to sink by it self no need for an iranian qader anti ship cruise missile. everthing that usa produces is garbage thats why the iphone only has 7% of the worlds mobile phone market 1/3 of what samsung has. one iranian nuclear warhead and britain france and entire europe disappers into a ocean of flames and all its people are burned to nothing in 5 seconds. i see that cry baby israel has told they usa to do the job that it self was to weak to do.

    September 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Well posted, saeed. Thank you.

      September 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Reply
    • arappmem

      Saeed, what an idiot. Iran doesn't have a single class of warship to go toe to toe with an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. All of Iran's destroyers are former WWII US Destroyers and 1 form 1946 built former British Destroyer. US destroyers currently of the coast of Syria are state of the art armed to the teeth and brandishing the latest in 3D radar, LAMPS and a whole array of countermeasures. You guys are nuts. Their ability to engage multiple targets simultaneous could probably handle both the Syrian and Iranians...on a bad day. Go smoke your hookah.

      September 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      those rusty and old warships are making half of the arab world pee in their pants, I mean white robes.

      September 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Reply
      • NNN

        Not really, the cruise missiles are surgical attack weapons and will not threaten the civilian population.

        September 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • GlobalBearings

      In the 1980s Tanker Wars, we took out 25% of Iran's major surface combatants (i.e. "big ships") in one day... Fast forward to 2013... I think we can do 90% ... Bring it on Saeed? Even your Ayatollah ain't that crazy.

      September 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Reply
      • NNN

        Uh-huh, and that was a time when the Ayatolah had just come into power, so Iran was still working with the Navy they developed as an ally of the U.S.

        September 4, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Rick from L.A.

      The US forces could slaughter Syria and Iran easily, it's not a question of firepower, it's a questions about politics and morality. What makes power truly great is the wisdom to use it properly.

      September 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Reply

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