Proposed US Strike on Syria
The Wall Street Journal
The US has intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the US Embassy and other American interests in Baghdad in the event of a strike on Syria, officials said, amid an expanding array of reprisal threats across the region.
Military officials have been trying to predict the range of possible responses from Syria, Iran and their allies. US officials said they are on alert for Iran's fleet of small, fast boats in the Persian Gulf, where American warships are positioned. US officials also fear Hezbollah could attack the US Embassy in Beirut.
While the US has moved military resources in the region for a possible strike, it has other assets in the area that would be ready to respond to any reprisals by Syria, Iran or its allies.
Those deployments include a strike group of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and three destroyers in the Red Sea, and an amphibious ship, the USS San Antonio, in the Eastern Mediterranean, which would help with any evacuations.
The US military has also readied Marines and other assets to aid evacuation of diplomatic compounds if needed, and the State Department began making preparations last week for potential retaliation against US embassies and other interests in the Middle East and North Africa...
A delay in a US strike would increase opportunities for coordinated retaliation by groups allied with the Assad government, including Shiite militias in Iraq, according to US officials.
The destroyers positioned in the Eastern Mediterranean are equipped with--in addition to Tomahawk missiles that could be used against Syria--the Standard Missile-3, which could be used to intercept ballistic missiles should Iran launch a retaliatory strike, officials said.
Israel has so far been the focus of concerns about retaliation from Iran and its Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah. The commander-in-chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said last week that an attack on Syria would lead to the "destruction of Israel."
The State Department issued a new alert on Thursday warning against non-essential travel to Iraq and citing terrorist activity "at levels unseen since 2008"...
The Iranian message, intercepted in recent days, came from Qasem Soleimani, the head of Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, and went to Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups in Iraq, according to US officials.
In it, Mr. Soleimani said Shiite groups must be prepared to respond with force after a US strike on Syria. Iranian officials didn't respond to requests for comment.
Iraqi Shiites have been sympathetic to the Alawite-dominated government of Syria and oppose US strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
US officials said the US Embassy in Baghdad was one likely target. The officials didn't describe the range of potential targets indicated by the intelligence...
Syrians could also respond with "a vicious offensive" against the opposition inside Syria, said Aaron David Miller, a former top Middle East negotiator in the State Department who now is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Such a move, he said, would be a way "to demonstrate defiance" without running the risk of hitting American targets.
Some officials believe a direct response from the Syrian or Iranian governments is less likely than reprisals from allied militant groups, such as Hezbollah.
Hezbollah, whose members have been fighting alongside government forces against the Syrian rebellion, could be used to launch rocket attacks against US military assets or American allies, including Israel...
Israeli officials have made clear they would respond forcefully if, in response to US strike, Hezbollah fires rockets into the country.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 09/05/2013
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