Secretary of State John Kerry has been consulting on Syria with former Gens. David Petraeus and Jack Keane, who developed the 2007 Iraq troop surge, about how to put a military option back on the table, The Wall Street Journal
Kerry and United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power have advocated for some form of military intervention to pressure the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad to negotiate with a disparate coalition of rebel forces, according to the Journal.
The Pentagon, led by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, has presented most any role for the U.S. military in Syria as unpalatable, the Journal reported.
Kerry does not seek a military solution but believes equipping Islamist rebels — not tied to al-Qaida — could be used as diplomatic leverage in the civil war that began in 2011 and has claimed some 160,000 lives. State Department "hawks" have previously pushed for air strikes against Assad's chemical weapons facilities, no-fly zones, and the establishment of U.S. bases in neighboring Jordan to train anti-Assad rebels.
Petraeus and Keane advised Kerry that a program to train and arm the rebels could weaken Assad, the Journal reported. The Pentagon has questioned how the United States can be sure it would not be helping militants whose sympathies are with al-Qaida.
Both the State Department and Pentagon are concerned that Assad would stop his slow turnover of chemical weapons — in a deal negotiated through his Kremlin allies — if the United States began large-scale training of rebel fighters.
Saudi Arabia has complained that by not backing the Islamist forces it is supporting against Assad, the United States is strengthening al-Qaida.
Besides Riyadh, Assad is opposed by an array of Sunni Islamist groups. He is backed by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, as well as by Russia.
The Pentagon told the White House that training rebels in Jordan would require carving out a buffer zone in Syria at a cost of $50 million a day for an indeterminate period, the Journal reported.
The Central Intelligence Agency has been covertly training and arming a limited number of Syrian rebels each month, according to the Los Angeles Times
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