The USS Eisenhower, a Navy aircraft carrier, has arrived off the coast of Syria in the midst of a heavy storm. The arrival of the carrier, which boasts eight fighter bomb squadrons and 8,000 troops, signals preparation by the US for a possible ground intervention.
The move is the latest step in a conflict between rebels and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who the US worries may use chemical weapons against his opposition in the coming days or weeks, reports Russia Today.
The arrival of the USS Eisenhower is likely a show of power by the country as a way of warning Assad against any major moves, such as using chemical weapons. The aircraft carrier joins the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, which holds about 2,000 Marines and is already sitting off the coast of Syria.
Should the US decide to intervene in the bloody conflict, which has taken the lives of at least 40,000 people since it began in March 2011, they will have at their disposal about 10,000 troops, 17 warships, 70 bombers, and 10 destroyers. Market Daily News notes that an unnamed US official stated of the military presence:
“The muscle is already there to be flexed. It’s premature to say what could happen if a decision is made to intervene. That hasn’t taken shape, we’ve not reached that kind of decision. There are a lot of options, but it [military action] could be launched rapidly, within days.”
The move by the US to send the USS Eisenhower to Syria also comes after NATO decided on Tuesday to deploy Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems in Turkey on the border of Syria. The area is home to Syrian opposition groups. The defense systems would be able to protect Turkey from any potential Syrian attacks.