Obama Orders Expansion of Potential Targets in Syria

As Congress continues to debate whether to authorize military action, President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to expand their list of targets in Syria. The expansion will reportedly place additional emphasis on the "degrade" part of the potential mission's goal to "deter and degrade" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ability to use chemical weapons.

According to officials cited by the New York Times, the order is in response to intelligence reports showing that Assad's military has been moving troops and equipment used to fired chemical weapons. The list of targets now reportedly includes more than the 50 or so initial targets established during joint planning sessions with French forces last month.

From the Times:

Mr. Obama’s instructions come as most members of Congress who are even willing to consider voting in favor of a military response to a chemical attack are insisting on strict limits on the duration and type of the strikes carried out by the United States, while a small number of Republicans are telling the White House that the current plans are not muscular enough to destabilize the Assad government.

Senior officials are aware of the competing imperatives they now confront — that to win even the fight on Capitol Hill, they will have to accept restrictions on the military response, and in order to make the strike meaningful they must expand its scope.

“They are being pulled in two different directions,” a senior foreign official involved in the discussions said Thursday. “The worst outcome would be to come out of this bruising battle with Congress and conduct a military action that made little difference.”

Meanwhile, in a clear attempt to sell the intervention to America's liberals, Secretary of State John Kerry gave an interview to MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Thursday night.

The president is not talking about, uh, assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. What the president is trying to do and what we believe is important to America’s national security interests and to humanitarian interests and to the interests of Israel and Jordan and Lebanon and all of our friends in the region is that you hold Bashar Al-Assad responsible for use of chemical weapons and that you degrade his ability to use them again and deter him from using them again. That’s what’s really important here. That’s all that we’re talking about in this.

Kerry also answered Hayes's question about a recently surfaced video of Syrian rebels executing seven captured members of Assad's military, saying the men in the video would be "disadvantaged by an American response to the chemical weapons use because it, in fact, empowers the moderate opposition."

[Image via AP]

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