WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is moving a fifth warship armed with cruise missiles to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, giving the U.S. more firepower for a possible attack on Syria in response to alleged use of chemical weapons, a defense official said.
The guided-missile destroyer Stout is expected to arrive in the area Thursday, joining four other missile-carrying U.S. destroyers within range of Syria.
Each can carry up to 90 cruise missiles, though experts say they are likely carrying about half that number. Cruise missiles have a range of nearly 1,000 miles, allowing the vessels carrying them to stay well out of range of Syria's anti-ship missiles, even when they launch the missiles.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States would not act alone in any attack on Syria.
“We continue to consult with our allies,” Hagel said at a news conference in Brunei after a meeting of regional defense chiefs in Indonesia. “And as I think has been made very clear by President Obama -- and I have said it on a number of occasions -- if any action would be taken against Syria, it would be an international collaboration.”
Obama administration officials are scheduled to brief lawmakers late Thursday on the intelligence that U.S. officials say indicates Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government used chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack that is believed to have killed hundreds of people in rebel strongholds on the outskirts of Damascus.
The Obama administration has been moving toward a strike against Syria in response to the alleged attack, but when such a response might occur remains unclear.
The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons in the war and has pointed the finger at rebels, who have been engaged in a civil war with regime forces since early 2011.
United Nations chemical weapons experts now in Syria to investigate the alleged attack are expected to leave by Saturday and report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council on Sunday or Monday.