The top general of America’s military on Thursday backed away from President Obama’s threats to intervene militarily in Syria against the Assad regime, warning that the worst-case scenario would be some kind of failed state in the embattled country.
Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff General Martin Dempsey stressed while on a trip to London that direct military action in Syria, even simply no-fly zones, might be beyond the US and NATO’s capabilities and counter to their interests.
Last week President Obama warned that his “calculation” to refrain from direct military intervention in Syria “could change” if Syria’s chemical or biological weapons begin “moving around or being utilized,” describing the WMD issue as a “red line” that would prompt direct military action, like setting up safe zones, no-fly zones, or worse.
But Dempsey explained it wouldn’t be that easy. He said frequent comparison of the Syrian situation with that in Libya, where a “no-fly zone” was imposed following a United Nations resolution, is at best a source of “amusement.”
General Dempsey warned that possible safe zones for refugees were not being considered for inside Syria, cautioning that imposing them could open the path to a breakout of war.
“If you chose to establish [a safe zone/no-fly zone] you would assume the responsibility for protecting it. If you are tasked to protect it you have to look at those who might seek to attack it or to influence it and that could take you, depending on weapons systems, it could take you to a limited no-fly zone it could take you to the point of having to interdict air and ballistic missile systems,” he said.
As far as forcibly ousting the Assad regime, Dempsey said, such a move would be far too destabilizing. He said a failed state in Syria would be the worst-case scenario and warned against allowing armed extreme jihadists and rebels with ties to al-Qaeda to increase their influence and expand control in a post-Assad Syria.