Dempsey: Military giving President Obama options on Syria

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that the U.S. military is prepared to follow whatever orders it receives from civilian leaders regarding Syria.

Dempsey spoke about Syria at a Christian Science Monitor news roundtable after recent reports surfaced pointing to evidence indicating Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime used sarin, a deadly nerve agent. Dempsey said nothing he heard out of Syria in the past week changes the mission for leaders of the U.S. military.

"We've been planning, we're talking about the options, and we're looking to determine if these options are still valid or if anything has changed," Dempsey said. "That doesn't mean that anything we've heard over the past week wouldn't change the policy calculus."

President Barack Obama said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a game changer.

"The reason for that is that we have established international law and international norms that say when you use these kinds of weapons, you have the potential of killing massive numbers of people in the most inhumane way possible," Obama said. "The proliferation risks are so significant that we don't want that genie out of the box."

The President said the physiological evidence may indicate the use of chemical weapons, but the evidence is neither comprehensive nor complete.

"We don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them," Obama said. "We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened. And when I am making decisions about America's national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I have got to make sure I've got the facts."

While one military option in Syria is the establishment of a no-fly zone, Dempsey said Syria's high-end air defense would make the no-fly zone a challenge.

"I'm not saying we couldn't beat that system, but it would be a greater challenge, take longer and require greater resources," Dempsey said. "Any military operation tends to be a little more complicated," he said. "They tend to be more risky."

Dempsey said that a no-fly zone comes with complications, such as the necessity of a plan to recover any aircraft shot down in hostile territory and the launch of long-range missiles outside of the no-fly zone.