The United States is reviewing military options in Syria, but it has not reached a decision to involve directly in the more than two-year-old conflict.
“We can destroy the Syrian air force,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said in a letter to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) dated August 19. “But it would also escalate and potentially further commit the United States to the conflict.”
“Stated another way, it would not be militarily decisive, but it would commit us decisively to the conflict,” Dempsey was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
The top general also said Washington’s military intervention would plunge the United States deep into another war in the Middle East.
“The use of US military force can change the military balance,” Dempsey said. “But it cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict.”
He also said the militants fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not support US interests if they were to seize power.
“Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides,” Dempsey said. “It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not.”
General Dempsey described the Syrian conflict as “tragic and complex.”
“It is a deeply rooted, long-term conflict among multiple factions, and violent struggles for power will continue after Assad’s rule ends,” he wrote. “We should evaluate the effectiveness of limited military options in this context.”
The United States is reviewing all options in Syria, but it has not reached a firm decision to involve directly in the more than two-year-old conflict.
The White House announced in June that it would offer military aid to foreign-backed militants in Syria who are fighting the government there.
In July, General Dempsey said imposing a no-fly zone against Syria would cost the United States one billion dollars a month and put US aircraft at risk of being shot down.
In a letter to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dempsey said the use of such force is “no less than an act of war” and would come at a time of growing fiscal restraint on the Pentagon.
“Some options may not be feasible in time or cost without compromising our security elsewhere,” Dempsey said.