TODAY   |  August 31, 2013

Strike on Syria may happen as early as today

With a U.S. military strike looming, U.N. weapons inspectors left Syria ahead of schedule Saturday. Meanwhile, the potential targets in Syria have reportedly been downloaded into waiting missiles. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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

>> thing that is not clear is when a syrian strike could happen.

>> folks thought it would be tied to the united nation 's inspectors. they have left syria about three hours earlier than originally planned. it was the last hurdle before a u.s. strike which come come within hours.

>> tensions are ratcheting up. vladimir putin says if it happens, it would be, quote, extremely sad.

>> we have teams from all over. the potential risks and fall out from the rest of the world . we begin with the latest reaction from the u.s. jim is live from the pentagon. good morning.

>> good morning, lester. from the military standpoint with the u.n. inspectors out it does clear the battlefield for a possible military strike . all the military pieces are in place. the u.s. military forces couldn't be more ready. they are waiting for the order from president obama . five guided missile destroyers in the eastern med loaded with 50 tomahawk missiles each. we are told all the potential targets have been downloaded into the missile warheads. the targets include the commanding control center for syria 's chemical weapons site and the delivery system for artillery, rockets and other devices, airplanes, airstrips. but, president obama made it clear this is not an attack intended to overturn the regime. regime is not the target. it's limited and tailored according to the president.

>> limited and tailored, maybe a hit and run . how effective have they been?

>> they are not very effective, lester, particularly when you are up against a military power in the region like syria . the most famous of the ineffective were in 1998 when president bill clinton launched in afghanistan to find three years later obama launched the attacks on 9/11 on the u.s.

>> they will attack when given the word. what caution are you hearing for the pentagon? what are the risks?

>> the biggest risk is that of course, this could ignite a much larger regional war. they think that's unlikely. it's always possible. the big risk for the president, of course, is that president bihar al assad brushes it off his shoulders, ignores it entirely and makes the united states and its military look weak. one has to remember that bashar al assad has everything at stake here. he is fighting for his life.

>> jim at the pentagon for us. thanks.