Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Obama administration is deliberating whether or not it should use the brute of the US military in Syria during a Thursday morning Senate hearing.
Gen. Dempsey said the administration was considering using “kinetic strikes” in Syria and said “issue is under deliberation inside of our agencies of government,” the Associated Press reported from Washington.
Dempsey, 61, is the highest ranking officer in the US military and has been nominated by Pres. Obama to serve a second term in that role. The Senate Armed Services Committee questioned him Thursday morning as part of the nominating process when Dempsey briefly discussed the situation in Syria.
Last month, the Obama administration concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons during the ongoing battles. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said, “The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete.”
Pres. Obama said previously that the use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and likely trigger American intervention. When the White House concluded Assad had relied on chemical warfare, Rhodes said, “both the political and the military opposition . . . is and will be receiving US assistance.”
That claim was met with skepticism, though. The Syrian Foreign Ministry called Obama’s claims a “caravan of lies.” Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, later presented to the UN evidence supplied to his government that suggested the Syrian opposition fighters used chemical weapons.
With regards to foreign intervention, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said, “Providing arms to either side would not address this current situation.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and his father, former congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) have also cautioned the White House against aiding Syrian rebels.
“You will be funding today the allies of al Qaeda” by aiding Syrian rebels, Sen. Paul said in May.
On his part, the retired lawmaker from Texas insisted that the administration’s lead up to possible intervention is “identical to the massive deception campaign that led us into the Iraq War.”
That isn’t to say the GOP is entirely opposed to taking any action. Although directly using the American military — either through boots-on-the-ground or unmanned aircraft — has been rarely discussed in public, Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), two long-time leaders within the Republican party, have been relentless with efforts to equip opposition fighters.
“I don’t care what it takes,” Graham told Foreign Policy’s The Cable earlier this year. “If the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.”
Other US officials have previously said Washington is considering implementing a no-fly zone above Syria, and last month the Pentagon left a fleet of F-16 fighter planes and its Patriot anti-missile system on the border of neighboring Jordan following a routine military drill.