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Pentagon pushback: Joint Chiefs said to oppose Obama’s Syria strike order

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has encountered vigorous
resistance from the military to his plans to attack Syria.

Administration sources said the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as many in
the U.S. military command have opposed Obama’s directive to prepare for
imminent air strikes on the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Barack Obama discusses Syria in the Oval Office with House Speaker John Boehner on Aug. 31 as Vice President Joe Biden listens.

President Barack Obama discusses Syria in the Oval Office with House Speaker John Boehner on Aug. 31 as Vice President Joe Biden listens.

The sources said the opposition within the military and the Defense Department has warned of retaliation by Iran and Syria against U.S. interests throughout the Middle East and Africa.

“The president has been told point blank that this could be the start of a military intervention that could take months or even a year until there is any resolution,” a source who has been following the debate said.

The sources said the biggest opponent of a military campaign against Syria has been the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey. They said Dempsey, who sought to maintain a low profile, has warned that the U.S. military was not ready for any sustained conflict against Syria that could involve two of its leading allies, Iran and Russia.

“Dempsey has been unusually blunt in his remarks with both Obama and
Vice President Joe Biden,” the source said. “His assessment is that any U.S.
war against Assad will automatically involve his foreign allies, and that
means Teheran and to a smaller extent, Moscow.”

Iran is said to have deployed up to 50,000 proxy forces in Syria, the
sources said. They also cited a Russian Navy task force that was larger than
that of the U.S. European Command in the eastern Mediterranean.

So far, the military warnings appear to have restrained Obama. On Aug.
31, the president said he was authorizing the use of military force against
Syria in wake of a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 attributed to the
regime. But Obama said he would ask for formal approval from Congress, in
recess until Sept. 9.

“This is squarely now in the hands of Congress,” Secretary of State John
Kerry said on Sept. 1. “They will do what is right because they understand
the stakes.”

Kerry said the United States has determined that the Assad regime was
behind the CW attack around Damascus. He said the intelligence community
assessed that the artillery shells fired toward rebel strongholds in the
suburbs of Damascus contained sarin.

“I can share with you today that blood and hair samples that have come
to us through an appropriate chain of custody, from east Damascus, from
first responders, it has tested positive for signatures of sarin,” Kerry
said in U.S. television interviews. “So this case is building and this
case will build.”

Over the last two days, Obama and his aides were briefing leaders of
Congress regarding his war plans against Assad. Officials said House and
Senate leaders were shown classified data on Assad’s CW arsenal and its use
against civilians. The leaders were also shown a draft resolution for a U.S.
strike on Syria.

The administration has asserted that U.S. strikes on Syria would help
defend Israel. For its part, both Israel and Jordan have not endorsed
Obama’s plans against Assad.

At the same time, the U.S. military has augmented its presence in most
of Syria’s neighbors. They included the landing of three U.S. air transports
at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, used for operations throughout the region.

“I think the Senate will rubber stamp what he wants,” Sen. Rand Paul, a
Republican from Kentucky, said. “The House will be a much closer vote.”

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