TODAY   |  August 25, 2013

US warships on alert as Syria conflict worsens

Richard Engel reports from Syria and “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory says that as Obama gets a “detailed review” of options in the region, the U.S. military may be “headed toward some kind of limited strike.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> turning now to the deepening crisis in syria . today defense secretary chuck hag hagel said the u.s. is preparing for all options there as speculation rises that the u.s. is planning to strike. doctors inside syria confirm they treated thousands of people who are victims of what appears to be a chemical attack . our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is in turkey near the syrian border this morning. richard, what's the latest?

>> reporter: we've spoken to senior members, erica, of the syrian opposition. they fear if there is no action taken, no response to what they firmly believe was a chemical weapons attack, that there could be other attack, that bashar al assad 's regime could be emboldened and decide to use these same type of weaponsis civilians in another circumstance. they have received shipments of weapons going to the syrian opposition coming through turkey, in fact, coming through this area. and they also say that they believe they have evidence that bashar al assad personally ordered those alleged chemical attacks on the outskirts of damascus. they say they have evidence. they didn't specify what the evidence was, but they said they have evidence it was bashar personally.

>> that is a pretty strong statement that we're hearing there, one i know people want to be hearing more about. richard, thank you. david gregory , moderator of "meet the press" joins us this morning and, david , good morning. of course a year ago the president said the red line here would be chemical weapons . there is a waiting period right now. the president saying wait iing to confirm, essentially with the u.n., that this is what happened. but there's also a lot more pressure. he met with his national security team yesterday. is there a sense of where things are headed at this point? because the clock is clearly ticking.

>> i think they're heading to some kind of limited strike. but the president's being kaubs. according to everybody i talked to who is familiar with these deliberations there's a lot of attempt by the president to look around the corner, to try to understand both what they seek to accomplish with a military strike of any kind and what the ramifications would be, what the consequences would be within the region, within syria . part of making the case, what is gathering steam, is the idea that you have jihadist elements that are coming to syria because it's so unstable. and that that gets to our core national interest . you have chemical weapons in the mix, falling into potentially the wrong hands. and, yes, the predicament of that red line that the president issued. and his overall belief that wmds simply cannot be tolerated in that part of the world. an active effort to make sure iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon , use of wmd in syria has gotten to a cost, a level of costs that is simply unbearable.

>> so at this point, then, david , is there a new red line for the president?

>> no, i don't think you're hearing that. i think the president has been careful to say this is of grave concern and that he's talking about a threat to u.s. allies. he's talking about a threat to u.s. bases. that has been suggested to me as sort of the making of a case for action by the international community . he spoke to british prime minister david cameron . there's going to be an attempt to build support within the international community . again, for some kind of limited strike. i think it's important to point out what this would not mean. i think the overall effort here is to try to punish assad, to try to roll him back. we are not talking about the kind of intervention that would lead to a long-term intervention or even a long-term involvement with what is considered to be a civil war there. so it will be unsatisfactory to a the lot of people in terms of stopping the bloodshed. the president wants to do something here that punishes assad and sends a message.

>> clearly still figuring it out. we're tight on time but i have to ask you quickly as we look at the options here, there's a loft talk and comparison this weekend over what happened with president clinton in kosovo. is that a potential route that you're hearing?

>> limited air strikes is a poe potential route. and beyond that, that level of intervention becomes a much different matter.

>> all right. also a lot of talk, of course, about domestic support as well. david ,