Levin: Obama to increase military pressure on Syria

The pending decision from the White House could include the creation of a no-fly zone along the Turkish or Jordanian border or additional deployments of Patriot missile systems in those countries, a top Senate lawmaker said Wednesday. 

While Obama has not officially requested any recommendations for U.S. military action in Syria, Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelThe Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report Billionaires stopping climate change action have a hold on Trump, GOP MORE "had a long conversation with the president" on the issue at the White House on Tuesday, according to Senate Armed Services chief Carl LevinCarl LevinPresident Trump, listen to candidate Trump and keep Volcker Rule Republicans can learn from John McCain’s heroism Trump and GOP wise to keep tax reform and infrastructure separate MORE (D-Mich.). 

"Something is happening, something is going on," Levin said after Wednesday's Senate hearing on the situation in Syria. 

The Defense Department did not comment on possible future actions in Syria and neighboring countries.

The Obama administration is "looking for some ways to put [increased] pressure" on embattled Syrian president Bashar Assad to step down and end the bloody two-year war with rebel forces in the country, Levin said. 

Levin could not comment on when Obama would make a decision on possible American military escalation on Syria, but the White House could be running out of time on those options.

"I wanted something done yesterday," Levin added, noting the growing impatience with Obama's pursuit of a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict. 

Levin is one of several Democrats who have begun to break ranks with Obama, calling for U.S. military and intelligence officials to take action to end the war. 

On Wednesday, Hagel admitted the White House's strategy "hasn't achieved the objective" of removing Assad from power in Syria. 

Levin's comments come as the Obama White House is preparing for a series of meetings and visits with key allies in the region. 

The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that Hagel will begin a week-long goodwill trip next week, making stops in Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. 

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryFor the sake of national security, Trump must honor the Iran deal Bernie Sanders’s 1960s worldview makes bad foreign policy DiCaprio: History will ‘vilify’ Trump for not fighting climate change MORE will visit Turkey and other nations in the region this week, he told members of the House Foreign Relations committee on Wednesday. 

Obama will also hold one-on-one meetings in Washington next week with top diplomats from Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. 

The timing of the visits, along with continued deployments of U.S. military advisers to Jordan, has set the stage for a possible uptick in American involvement in Syria, according to Levin. 

But during Wednesday's hearing, Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey warned that any U.S. military action in Syria would quickly deteriorate into a long, drawn out conflict in the region. 

"I really want to understand what we we're willing to do, either by ourselves or partners, when [U.S. intervention] escalates, because it will escalate," Dempsey told the Senate panel regarding the creation of a no-fly zone. 

"The introduction of military power [in Syria] right now could certainly have the possibility of making the situation worse," Dempsey added. 

But Levin noted the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria would not constitute an escalation of U.S. military intervention in Syria. 

"I would not use the term intervention" regarding a no-fly zone inside Turkey or Jordan. "The real issue is, if it works. . . it should get Assad's attention."

Defense Department leaders are already drafting a slate of battle plans for Obama, should the White House decide to use military force to end the two-year civil war in Syria, Hagel said Wednesday. 

While the details of those plans remain secret, they do include plans to deal with Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles and to prevent the conflict from spreading to neighboring countries, Hagel told lawmakers.