First Published: 2013-06-20

 

Top US general scolds Kerry over Syria air strikes

 

General Dempsey warns bombing Syrian regime’s air bases carries grave risks, demands to know just exactly what post-strike plan would be.

 

Middle East Online

Dempsey threw a series of brushback pitches at Kerry

WASHINGTON - Top US military officer General Martin Dempsey has clashed with Secretary of State John Kerry over the merits of bombing Syria's regime at a White House meeting, media reported Wednesday.

Kerry reportedly argued for air strikes against regime air bases used to employ chemical weapons against Syrian rebels at a discussion last week in the White House Situation Room, wrote Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, citing unnamed sources.

But Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued stern warnings that air strikes carried grave risks and would require large-scale bombing raids to take out Syria's air defense system, the report said.

"According to several sources, Dempsey threw a series of brushback pitches at Kerry, demanding to know just exactly what the post-strike plan would be and pointing out that the State Department didn't fully grasp the complexity of such an operation," the report said.

US officials acknowledged there were frank discussions and debate over policy on Syria but sought to downplay the report's portrayal of a heated exchange with raised voices.

"The chairman has been open in saying that we need to understand all the options and we need to understand the consequences" of any military action in Syria, a defense official said.

Dempsey sees his role as offering his best advice on the implications of any military action and had not staked out a position rejecting intervention, the official said.

"He wasn't saying we shouldn't do this," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the report "overplayed" the emotions, stressing that candid debate in which senior officials weigh the risks and benefits of policy options is "how the system is supposed to work."

The State Department refused to disclose the details of high-level policy discussions but said the description of the atmosphere at the meeting was off the mark.

"I've seen some of those reports about the tone, which is very inaccurate," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Senior diplomats and defense officials "are here to give the president the best advice and debate out the pros and cons of every option," she added.

Dempsey's spokesman, Colonel Dave Lapan, declined to comment on what he termed "classified internal deliberations."

Senior officials attending National Security Council sessions "routinely debate a wide range of options to include how the military can and should support a comprehensive, regional approach to this conflict," he said.

Kerry's preference for stronger action on Syria has been widely reported and public comments by Dempsey have made clear the general's reservations about the potential risks of intervention.

In an interview that aired Monday on PBS television, President Barack Obama expressed skepticism that setting up a no-fly zone in Syria or air strikes could save lives or tip the balance against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Obama said critics urging bold intervention failed to understand there was no simple solution and "if you set up a no-fly zone, that you may not be actually solving the problem."

 

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe