U.S. con­sid­er­ing ba­sic at­tacks on Syria, Joint Chiefs leader says

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY KRISTINA WONG

The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first time Wed­nes­day re­vealed that the United States is pre­par­ing ba­sic plans to at­tack Syria to stop Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad from killing un­armed pro­test­ers against the gov­ern­ment.

“We have looked at a num­ber of op­tions that could be in­volved here,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

He said the Pen­tagon is wait­ing for Pres­i­dent Obama to de­cide whether the prepa­ra­tion goes be­yond what he called a ba­sic mil­i­tary as­sess­ment be­fore de­vel­op­ing de­tailed con­tin­gency plans that would iden­tify spe­cific mil­i­tary units that would be in­volved in any ac­tion.

Gen. Dempsey said po­ten­tial mil­i­tary op­tions in­clude limited airstrikes and the es­tab­lish­ment of a no-fly zone and a hu­man­i­tar­ian cor­ri­dor to de­liver re­lief sup­plies.

Some com­mit­tee mem­bers ques­tioned why the ad­min­is­tra­tion op­poses arm­ing the op­po­si­tion, which in­cludes some sol­diers who have de­fected from the Syr­ian army. The United Na­tions es­ti­mates that the Syr­ian regime has killed more than 7,500 pro­test­ers dur­ing the past year.

Gen. Dempsey said the United States would not even con­sider arm­ing the rebels un­til U.S. of­fi­cials learn more about the armed op­po­si­tion, which could in­clude as many as 100 dis­si­dent groups.

“If we ever do reach a decision to arm the op­po­si­tion, it can’t sim­ply be arm­ing them with­out com­mand and con­trol, with­out any com­mu­ni­ca­tions, be­cause then it be­comes a rov­ing band of rebels,” he said.

Sen. John Mccain of Ari­zona, the se­nior Re­pub­li­can on the com­mit­tee, urged mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion to stop the killings.

“As­sad needs to know that he will not win, and un­for­tu­nately that is not the case now,” said Sen. Mccain.”how many more have to die? Ten thou­sand more? Twenty thou­sand more?”

De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panetta, who also tes­ti­fied at the hear­ing, said the ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­par­ing to pro­vide $10 mil­lion in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to the Syr­ian peo­ple and will work with the Friends of Syria, a group of Western and Arab lead­ers, to get the aid into the coun­try.

“Although we will not rule out any fu­ture course of ac­tion, cur­rently the ad­min­is­tra­tion is fo­cus­ing on diplo­matic and po­lit­i­cal ap­proaches rather than a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion,” Mr. Panetta said.

He said uni­lat­eral U.S. ac­tion “doesn’t make sense . . . at this point.”

In the House, the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee unan­i­mously ap­proved bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion, im­pos­ing tougher sanc­tions on Mr. Bashar and other top of­fi­cials and tar­get­ing the en­ergy and fi­nan­cial sec­tors.

“As­sad’s regime is dig­ging in for a longterm war, and news re­ports in­di­cate that the regime is brag­ging about mass ‘cleans­ing,’ ” said com­mit­tee Chair­woman Ileana Ros-le­hti­nen, Florida Re­pub­li­can.

In Syria on Wed­nes­day, a U.N. emer­gency re­lief of­fi­cial toured the shat­tered Baba Amr neigh­bor­hood in the re­bel­lious city of Homs and found that most res­i­dents have fled.

Ac­tivists have ac­cused Syr­ian se­cu­rity forces of seal­ing off Baba Amr to cover up atroc­i­ties from a month-long shelling as­sault.

Va­le­ria Ann Amos, the U.N. sec­re­tary-gen­eral for hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs, ar­rived in the cap­i­tal, Da­m­as­cus, ear­lier in the day and headed straight for Homs, one of the flash-point cities in the up­ris­ing against Mr. Bashar.

The Syr­ian mil­i­tary cap­tured Baba Amr last week af­ter a bat­tle with a small armed rebel force ex­tend­ing nearly four weeks.

The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment sealed off the neigh­bor­hood dur­ing the past six days and claimed the sit­u­a­tion was too dan­ger­ous to al­low hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers to en­ter.

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