By Kristina Wong - 02/19/14 01:31 PM EST
Although the White House is seeking new options for ending the crisis in Syria, the president is still aiming for a political solution, said Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelHagel says NATO deployment could spark a new Cold War with Russia Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill Hagel to next president: We need to sit down with Putin MORE on Tuesday evening.
“We’re constantly searching how to be smarter in how we do this with partners. I think the president believes that there’s got to be a political solution to this,” he told an audience at the Beth-El Synagogue in Bethesda, Md.
At the same time, Hagel said the president has asked for other options, but did not specify exactly what those other options were.
“He's asked for those options and we're prepared to do whatever he wants to do if he's -- if he wants to exercise any of those options,” Hagel said.
The United States and Russia have been backing peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime, as well as a plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program.
However, peace talks have not made significant progress, and Syria has failed to meet deadlines under the chemical weapons destruction plan.
On Friday, the Pentagon press secretary said options would be “interagency,” and not just military.
The U.S. has military assets in the region to deal with a possible Syria contingency, including Patriot missile batteries in Turkey as well as in Jordan, F-16 fighter jets in Jordan, and two Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
“There really isn’t a military solution to this crisis in Syria. The solution has to be diplomatic,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren on Wednesday.