News / Middle East

    Top US Officer Urges Caution on Syria Intervention

    Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey (File)Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey (File)
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    Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey (File)
    Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey (File)
    The top U.S. military officer has warned that intervening in Syria's civil war would cost billions of dollars, might escalate quickly and could turn into a highly risky endeavor for the United States.
     
    General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided a list of options for Congress to halt Syria's bloody conflict. It is the first time the Pentagon has explicitly described what it sees as the potential "unintended consequences" from any overt U.S. military action.
     
    Dempsey's letter to Sens. John McCain and Carl Levin, released late Monday, detailed options ranging from training opposition forces to conducting airstrikes and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria.
     
    Long-range strikes on Syrian military targets, he noted, would require "hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers," and cost "in the billions."
     
    Thousands of U.S. troops would be required if Washington wanted to establish buffer zones to protect certain geographic areas or control the proliferation of chemical weapons, the letter asserted.
     
    It followed a testy exchange at a congressional hearing last week between Dempsey and McCain, a leading advocate of intervention, when the general testified about why the U.S. is not doing more to help opposition rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
     
    'Worst case scenario'
     
    Dempsey's letter outlined a "worst-case scenario" and is not the final word on the issue, according to Steven Heydemann, an analyst at the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace.
     
    "He seemed to feel the U.S. would be acting alone if it were to pursue any of these options. He seemed to argue that any one of the options he discussed would require massive commitment of U.S. forces when it may be the case that the goals he outlined could be achieved through a variety of different force levels," Heydemann said.
     
    McCain has led calls in Congress to arm the rebels and establish a no-fly zone to protect opposition forces from Assad's air power.
     
    Heydemann said the Obama administration's goals and those of intervention supporters like McCain both involve forcing the Syrian government to the negotiating table.
     
    "It's understood that our strategy has a military dimension, that the best way to arrive at negotiations is to create conditions on the ground that will compel the Assad regime to recognize that negotiations represent its best option for securing some sort of future for itself in a post-conflict Syria," said Heydemann.
     
    But U.S. Congressman Trey Radel, who is sponsoring an amendment on Syria to the defense appropriations bill being debated on the House floor, is among those strongly opposed to the direct insertion of U.S. ground troops into the conflict.
     
    "I simply want to re-assert that Congress decides when or if we are ever going to put boots on the ground, in this case with Syria. And I do not support putting boots on the ground, our young men and women in harm's way in Syria. It is a civil war," Radel said.
     
    These debates come as the White House, which is moving ahead with a limited plan to supply the rebels with small arms and other weapons, has begun to acknowledge that Assad may remain in power for the foreseeable future.

    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Surely We Will Win !!! from: USA
    July 24, 2013 9:25 AM
    Certainly, all things that Putin fears and protests against, are the real necessary things that we try to carry out as soon as possible, in order to end the battle in Syria. It’s the time for USA and all our allies in the whole world to enter the battle formally. If we don’t blow Assad away right now, surely chemical weapons and war will spread out quickly and seriously to the whole Middle East. Even, our citizens and allies worldwide can also be threatened by chemical weapons from international dangerous terrorists.

    Basically, the key for this battle should be carried out like Lybia. NATO will enforce a no-fly zone over the whole territory of Syria, and carry out destroying all necessary military goals of Assad quickly and thoroughly. USA will support NATO with heavy air-attacks towards important military goals of Assad, if necessary. At any price, we will prevent any battle that can happen in the countries around Syria, while we attack Assad. Especially, destroying and treating chemical weapons should be paid attention to very carefully and wisely…Go ahead bravely, the waters of the Red Sea will part well! Surely, we will win gloriously.

    by: Anonymous
    July 24, 2013 3:11 AM
    Arm these people to the teeth now, as quickly as possible they deserve to defend their country from Assad who has destroyed a good majority and killed more civilians than any group in Syria. The Russians and Assad deserve a serious slap to the face for their disregard for human life.

    by: Anonymous
    July 24, 2013 1:06 AM
    I've heard from Syrians that the Syrian people would welcome anyones help even if it was help from Israel to bring Assad to justice. They consider Assad more of an enemy than Israel. Perhaps the Israelis could make a no fly zone so the Syrians can get their man and hold him responsible for his crimes against the Syrian Nation. Alternately the Arab League should be in there helping as well. Those Syrians need arms to defend themselves from Assad and his criminal mercenaries and anyone else that follows Assads orders. Justice must be brought to Assads front door. In the meentime I would expect the west to be providing an incredible amount of intelligence to the Syrian FSA which could help them bring Assad to justice. Perhaps if thousands of Syrians stormed Assads hideout this war against the Assads thugs would be over. Even if it meant a new war beginning, at least the Syrian Army wouldn't be killing so many civilians, and destruction of the country.

    by: kat from: lancaster ca
    July 23, 2013 11:22 PM
    i dont want the US involved.. no more troops lost.. let the international community take it.. we have already made to many cuts in our military.. and of course i care for those that are suffering .. but we would be helping the wrong people .. and seriously how can we afford it..

    by: ali baba from: new york
    July 23, 2013 8:54 PM
    I will write to us senator that it will stupid to intervene in Syria and cause financial lost of the country

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    July 23, 2013 1:43 PM
    Sounds like a submission in trepidation. Was Dempsey jittery? Was he afraid that Hezbollah, Iran or al qaida will make nonsense of his plans? It is a question of stopping Assad from further converting the region to terrorist haven and you are here telling us the negative balances of going into Syria. Russia would not have gone into this time-wasting SWAT analysis when everyone knows that Assad has become such a threat that must rooted out at all costs, especially with his involvement with Tehran and Hezbollah - thank God the EU quickly outlawed Hezbollah and tagged it a terrorist organization - wherein all terrorist cleavages are access of evil. The world sees this delay as a sign of weakness, fear and submission to some other supremacy. Is it Russia?
    In Response

    by: ali baba from: new york
    July 24, 2013 4:11 AM
    this is not the case of Hezbollah. it is the issue that US will not solve all the conflict in the world especially a conflict caused by religion especially Islam religion and violent . it is a matter of American lives might lost and our financial resources. for example the money which spend in Afghanistan can overhaul social security which American elderly depend as a source of income. if you believe that American intervention will help state Israel., Us is not agent to serve Israel interest

    by: Kevin from: US
    July 23, 2013 11:37 AM
    If we're dumb enough to get involved in this, the EU and Arab League should pay for all of it plus extra to us if their too weak or indecisive to do it themselves.

    by: milenkovic milan from: usa, va
    July 23, 2013 11:11 AM
    Main goal for Syrian opposition’s support is to secure ALL chemical weapons and other WMD…Syria to me is like bridge between Iran and Hezbollah & Hamas and is a huge treat to peace and security in Israel ( and region)…Patriot missiles (NATO) on Turkey-Syrian border and F-16 & Patriot missiles in Jordan , could be a huge help for NO-fly zone and against Syrian SCUD missiles…

    IRAN is making DIVERSON to World, from his own nuclear program, by making ‘problems’ in Syria and North Korea. Iran was paying N. Korea, for years, to build secret nuclear facilities in Syria…And do NOT forget Russian Navy base in Syria, too. So, part of the ‘war games’ are Russia and Iranian allies: Syria, North Korea, Hamas, Hezbollah…USA should NOT get involved directly in war in Syria, but unofficial support to opposition with money, weapons and intelligence (CIA,MI-6, Mossad) , could be a huge help, for necessary change.

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    July 23, 2013 9:37 AM
    General Dempsey, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US, took two years to find options for military intervention in Syria. President Obama will take another three more years to consider intervention, even after his own red line for military intervention has passed long time ago. If General Dempsey suggests Buffer Zones in neighboring countries, it is not at all a military intervention in Syria.

    It is preferable to have No Fly Zones in Syria itself than the Buffer Zones in neighboring countries to reduce the burden on countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. America keep on pondering, while the carnage continues in Syria. The beacon of hope is shut down by President Obama by postponing the military intervention till his term of office ends. Even the American declaration of supply arms to Syrian rebel forces is not implemented, because President Obama is still thinking!
    In Response

    by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet - Africa
    July 24, 2013 4:12 AM
    If Military intervention options were possible and viable, one must have been implimented long before now and have Syria saved. The fact remains that Obama and neigbouring nations of Syria and the so called friends of Syria took the first wrong step by arming rebels.How would you reconcile your conflicting neigbours by arming them to kill one another? It is completely hypocricy. Negotiation was snurbbed when it was most needed.

    Secondly, can't we learn lessons from what happened in Syria and Ivory coast? These countries are still battling with infilterated arms and ammunition. The question remains, what exactly is the mission of the world leaders for us? Have they lost focus on a better world reduced of armed conflicts? Where are they sleeping and from which side do they always wake up from, the left or the right? It is easy to give drinking cup to a wild Gorilla but the question remains after the drink, who would collect the cup back from him? Get Syria awash with weapons and come back tomorrow to fight terrorism that you are the mother to.

    Get the waring parties to negotiating table please to save and secure the future of the young generation of Syrians.

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