Syria: U.S. Mulls Strikes Against Assad as Kerry Expresses ‘Outrage’ at Russia

Syrians evacuate an injured man amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Al-Qatarji, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 29, 2016. Fresh bombardment shook Syria's second city Aleppo, severely damaging a local clinic as outrage grows over an …

The Obama administration, after suspending Syria peace negotiations with Russia, expressed “outrage” at the Kremlin and is once again considering airstrikes against Russia-backed forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, reports the Washington Post (WaPo).

“I have to tell you with a great sense of outrage that Russia has turned a blind eye to Assad’s deplorable use of these weapons of war that he has chosen — chlorine gas, barrel bombs against his people,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Brussels on Tuesday. “Together, the Syrian regime and Russia seem to have rejected diplomacy, in the furtherance of trying to pursue a military victory, over the broken bodies, the bombed-out hospitals, the traumatized children of a long-suffering land.”

Tensions between Russia and the United States intensified after the Obama administration announced Monday that it was ending talks with Russia over the war in Syria, accusing the Kremlin of the breakdown in negotiations.

The Post reports:

U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the way forward in Syria. But there’s little prospect President Obama will ultimately approve them.

“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the [Assad] regime,” an anonymous senior administration official told WaPo. “The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

Early on in the Syrian civil war, President Barack Obama called for regime change and threatened airstrikes against the Assad regime after accusing the Syrian dictator of using chemical weapons in 2013.

However, so far Obama has only authorized strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda-linked groups in Syria.

The Obama administration has provided military assistance to some anti-Assad rebels but has largely favored diplomacy over armed intervention as a means of dethroning the Syrian leader.

Meanwhile, Russia has remained Assad’s most important ally, placing Washington and the Kremlin on opposite sides of the conflict.

The various ceasefires negotiated by the U.S. have all failed. The Obama administration attempted to bring peace to Syria with the help of Russia, but that effort fell apart this week.

Following the unraveling of the Syria peace efforts, Kerry accused Russia of “favoring war over diplomacy amid widening rifts with Washington,” notes The Post.

“People that are serious about pursuing peace behave differently from the way Russia has chosen how to behave,” declared the secretary.

The suspension of negotiations “does not come lightly,” he added, denouncing Russia’s alliance with Assad as “irresponsible and profoundly ill-advised.”

According to the U.S. State Department, negotiations aimed at ensuring the safety of pilots from Russia and the United States will carry on.

Kerry was a strong supporter of Obama’s initial plan to launch airstrikes against Assad after the Syrian dictator used chemical weapons.

“He has complained privately that White House resistance to more intervention has hurt efforts to persuade Russia, in particular, to take a tougher tone with Assad,” reported the Associated Press (AP) in June.

That month, a “dissent channel cable” signed by nearly 50 mid-level U.S. State Department officials who deal with U.S. policy in Syria advocated military action against Assad, including “targeted airstrikes.”

WaPo now reports that the Obama administration is once again considering bombing Assad, noting that the president will likely remain opposed to such a move.

The Post notes:

Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the regime as a means of forcing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to pay a cost for his violations of the cease-fire, disrupt his ability to continue committing war crimes against civilians in Aleppo, and raise the pressure on the regime to come back to the negotiating table in a serious way.

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me. One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.


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