(TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)Orig story by Stratfor

An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer anchored at the port of Manila in late May.

As the United States and its allies position their forces for a
possible military strike on Syria, the nature of that strike will be
entirely dependent on the objective of the mission. The scope of the
strike will be heavily debated: whether it will be a punitive action
aimed at critical leadership or command and control nodes, a strike
geared toward degrading the regime's capabilities so that the balance of
power tilts toward the rebels, or an assault on the regime's chemical weapons arsenal.

The more ambitious the objective the more resources will have to be
committed. Additionally, the more the United States gets invested in the
conflict the more likely it will be tied to the aftermath. Given the
numerous constraints and Washington's already heavy reluctance to commit
to another intervention in the Middle East, the United States and its
allies will likely seek a limited scope for any possible operation. A
punitive series of missile strikes and airstrikes or an effort to
dismantle Bashar al Assad's ability to use chemical weapons is most


In the event of a punitive strike or a limited operation to reduce al
Assad's chemical weapons delivery capability — for instance, by
targeting key command and control facilities, main air bases and known
artillery sites — the United States already has enough forces
positioned to commence operations now. Four Arleigh Burke-class
destroyers — and probably a nuclear cruise missile submarine — are
already within Tomahawk cruise missile range of Syrian targets. In
addition, the United States can call upon strategic bombers based in the
continental United States as well as B-1 bombers from Al Udeid Air Base
in Qatar. In such an operation, the United States would be able to
carry out standoff attacks beyond the range of Syrian air defenses,
while B-2 bombers could stealthily penetrate the Syrian integrated air
defense network to drop bunker-busting bombs with minimal risk.

U.S. Deployments Near Syria

Despite having the forces already at its disposal for such restrained
operations, the United States will seek time to build up international
support as well as the defenses of it and its allies against the Syrian
regime's potential retaliation.

Considering that al Assad's forces have a number of ways to deliver
chemical weapons, ranging from air power to basic tube and rocket
artillery, an operation that seeks to degrade the regime's ability to
launch chemical weapons would necessarily be far wider in scope and
scale. As a result, it would require considerable resources. This type
of campaign would involve striking a number of hardened facilities,
possibly repeatedly, thus necessitating the use of far more sorties of
fixed-wing aircraft.

This means tactical aviation would have to play a key role in such a
campaign, which in turn would entail the deployment of significant
enabler aircraft such as aerial refueling tankers and intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance assets. Given the threat from Syrian air
defenses to manned tactical aircraft flying over Syria, considerably
more ships equipped with cruise missiles would be needed for the
inevitable suppression of an enemy air defense campaign, and aircraft
carriers would be needed to bolster the tactical aviation assets
available for the operation.

In effect, the more resources the United States and its allies
utilize the more damage they can inflict. However, as the intervention
grows, the potential costs also increase due to the commitment of more
numerous and vulnerable assets into the warzone. In an operation of this
scope, combat search and rescue helicopters and special operations
forces would be required due to the high risk of aircraft being shot
down over Syria.

It would be easy to see an operation of this magnitude coming because
of all the resources and equipment movements needed for it. The United
States has not yet begun to deploy the forces needed for this level of
intervention, but significant combat power is not far off. Two U.S. supercarriers and their escorts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations
are only a few days away, and the U.S. Air Force can rapidly surge
squadrons into the theater if necessary, especially if air bases in
Turkey, Greece, Jordan and Cyprus are available.


  1. Word on the street is that 90% of the Syrian “Rebels” are from other countries. That would more properly be called an invasion rather than a civil war.
    Evidence shows chem weapons have been used, but not conclusive by who.
    Perhaps we should remain more reserved. Our track record in the area has been poor.

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