As Congress debates a strike on Syria, the regime and its allies have been given plenty of time to prepare strikes of their own, American officials warn. The US has intercepted an order from Iran to Iran-supported Shiite militias in Iraq to launch attacks on the US Embassy and other American targets in the event of a Syria strike, the Wall Street Journal reports. American officials also fear a strike could lead to attacks on targets inside Turkey and Jordan, as well as "a vicious offensive" against the opposition inside Syria. The State Department has warned American citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Iraq, reports Reuters.
In related developments:
- Intelligence has also revealed that the Syrian regime is moving troops and military equipment—including that used to deploy chemical weapons—to civilian neighborhoods, reports the New York Times. In response, President Obama has ordered to Pentagon to expand its list of about 50 targets inside Syria; plans are being drawn up to involve American and French aircraft as well as cruise missiles in the potential strike.
- Syrian rebels can be added to the list of those preparing lists of targets, the Los Angeles Times finds. Opposition leaders say they are preparing for a nationwide offensive to coincide with the expected launch of American strikes. A spokesman says the Free Syrian Army has been told it will receive advance warning of a US attack but it is not coordinating targets with the Americans—though another commander says coordination is under way with "supporting countries" including the US. It's not clear whether the US will share information ahead of a strike with other rebel groups—and some groups fear the US will attack al-Qaeda-linked insurgents at the same time it hits the regime.
- Meanwhile, in Congress: Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp are developing an alternative resolution that could delay any US military action, Politico reports. The resolution would give Syria 45 days to sign an international ban on chemical weapons. If Bashar al-Assad refuses to sign, then "all elements of national power will be considered by the United States government," the draft reads. In that same 45 days, the president would be required to submit a strategy to Congress on how to deal with Syria.
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