US Diplomats Press for Strikes on Syrian Gov’t

US Diplomats Press for Strikes on Syrian Gov’tUS Diplomats Press for Strikes on Syrian Gov’t

Dozens of US State Department officials have signed an internal memo protesting against US policy in Syria and calling for targeted military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

They argue the current approach is working against the Syrian opposition and helping Assad to stay in power.

It was signed by 51 mid-to-high level officials who advise on Syria issues. It is not unusual for internal “dissent cables” to be filed through State Department channels. However, it is rare to have this number of diplomats’ voice opposition to a White House position, BBC reported.

A State Department spokesman acknowledged receipt of the memo but declined to comment on its contents. However, an official familiar with the letter told the BBC that it was sent “because the status quo is not sustainable”.

The document urges a credible threat of military action against the Assad government. Otherwise, it says, Damascus will feel no pressure to negotiate with the rebels.

This reflects concerns that the collapse of a joint US-Russian peace process is benefiting the regime. There have been violations of the ceasefire by both sides of the conflict.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has pressed the administration for tougher action against the government to force it to the negotiating table, and signatories to the dissent letter believe he’ll be sympathetic to their concerns, according to sources involved in the process.

But that’s unlikely to sway the Barack Obama administration, which has prioritized the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and largely stayed clear of the civil war.

President Obama is wary of being drawn into another Mideast conflict after the messy results of US intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

However, his possible successor, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, has argued for a more assertive policy in Syria, including stronger support for the rebels. Perhaps the letter is aimed as much at her as it is at Kerry.