By Barbara Starr (CNN)-
For Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the major priority now is to try to determine Syria's intent. Does it intend to use chemical weapons?
the US now believing the Syria government has chemical filled
bombs, CNN has learned the Pentagon is secretly updating military
strike options for President Obama in the event he orders action. A Senior US official tells a strike could be carried out with the ships and aircraft already stationed in the region.
planning is driven by the latest intelligence which US officials say
shows sarin gas has been loaded into aerial bombs at least two
locations near airfields.
Syria seems to have crossed the line drawn by the President last August.
"A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized."
week that line seems to have with warnings from President, Secretary Panetta and others focusing on if Assad uses the weapons.
"These lines become sort of pink lines. They're not drawn with a fine pencil and they move around A little."
Military options for striking Syria spell out the case for why an attack might be called for:
US officials say there are multiple reports -- more than just satellite imagery--confirming the aerial bombs. The regime is getting more desperate in recent days, as fighting has raged around Damascus--leading to worries Al-assad could order a deadly strike that could kill thousands.
Unlike Iraq before the US war, Syria's chemical weapons program is openly acknowledged by that government. "These weapon are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic."
But the President will also be warned of risks: Civilians could be killed by deadly release if the sarin isn't all destroyed. Syrian air defenses could bring down US Pilots if fighter jets are used.
The regime could move its chemical weapons even minutes before an attack.
And if weapons start moving, they become less secure. And that poses another dire consideration. Officials worry terrorist groups could then move in and try to seize control of this deadly arsenal.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to travel to Morocco next week for a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People. It's a gathering of countries that support the political transition in Syria.
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