US general warns against intervention in Syria

US general warns against intervention in Syria
Tue Jul 23, 2013 17:15:18

A top US military officer has warned that the US military action in the Syrian civil war would likely escalate quickly and result in "unintended consequences".

In the most detailed statement of the Pentagon’s reluctance to see greater US involvement in Syria, Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen Martin Dempsey warned that a significant military intervention in Syria would cost billions of dollars, could quickly escalate and would carry great risks.

“Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next,” Gen Dempsey wrote in a letter to senators John McCain and Carl Levin which was released on Monday evening. “Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”

Gen Dempsey’s letter followed a feisty congressional hearing last week when he sparred with McCain, the leading advocate in American politics for a more decisive US role in the Syrian conflict.

McCain later said he would block the nomination of Gen Dempsey for a further two years in his post until he provided an assessment of military options in Syria.

The Obama administration last month said it would supply light weapons to the Syrian militant groups through the Central Intelligence Agency.

Even that limited plan has encountered considerable resistance in Congress, where the sort of activism broached by McCain is opposed by a number of senior members who fear getting sucked into a new war in the region.

The Senate and House intelligence committees, which have oversight over the CIA, initially raised objections over the arms plan.

However, Mike Rogers, chair of the House intelligence committee, said on Monday that the panel had reached a consensus to back the White House’s plan despite “very strong concerns”.

Gen Dempsey’s three-page letter underscores the way that the US military’s experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq color many of the judgments it is now making about Syria.

“We have learnt from the past 10 years that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state,” Gen Dempsey wrote.

“Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.”

Gen Dempsey said McCain’s preferred option of establishing a “no-fly zone” over Syria would cost $1bn a month and would risk the loss of US aircraft too.

NJF/NJF

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