Nightly News   |  September 06, 2013

Will Pentagon use long-range missiles for Syria strike?

President Obama has ordered the military to come up with a wider range of options to hit Syria harder than originally planned. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>> now let's turn to this potential limited military strike against syria . what would the mission be? the plan of attack that the administration has promised would not involve, as they keep saying, any boots on the ground in terms of u.s. troops . nbc news is learning more about the potential targets and the potential weapons and how this potential mission has been expanded. at the pentagon for us tonight, nbc's jim miklaszewski . jim, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. no final decisions have been made. in fact, president obama 's ordered the military to come up with a wider range of options to hit syria harder than originally planned. for the first time, the pentagon is looking at using long-range bombers for potential air strikes on syria . b-2 stealth bombers flown all the way from missouri, b-52s from louisiana, and b-1 bombers based in qatar. all able to launch cruise missiles or gps- guided bombs from long range, well outside of syria 's anti-aircraft defenses. the u.s. military has also been ordered to come up with a longer list of potential targets, aimed at destroying more of syria 's chemical weapons program than first planned and sending a tougher message to president bashar al assad , sitting on more than 1,000 tons of chemical weapons .

>> although assad used more chemical weapons on august 21 than he had before, he has barely put a dent in his enormous stockpile and the international community has leer clearly not yet put a dent in his willingness to use them.

>> reporter: the u.s. navy already has four guided missile destroyers in the eastern mediterranean . armed with more than 150 cruise missiles aimed at some 50 military targets inside syria . and four guided missile ships are on standby in the red sea . critics claim, however, the president's announced strategy for a limited attack that would only diminish syria 's chemical weapons capabilities would have no lasting impact and only draw the u.s. into a larger war.

>> if we start going down this road, we are going to wind up getting sucked in, if only because this is probably not the last time that the regime is going to use chemical warfare agents, no matter what we do.

>> reporter: but, even this latest position from the president has come under fire, military officials here claim that the president's harder line looks more like a political strategy than a military one, aimed primarily at winning votes in congress. brian?

>> jim at the pentagon, thanks.