Democratic foreign policy figures press for intervention in Syria (LA TIMES) By Paul Richter WASHINGTON 08/11/12)
LOS ANGELES TIMES
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Former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Obama
administration officials Ann-Marie Slaughter and Dennis Ross add to
pressure on the White House from regional allies and Republican
WASHINGTON — President Obama´s vow to limit U.S. involvement in the
Syrian civil war is being criticized from a usually sympathetic
quarter: the Democratic foreign policy establishment.
Senior Democratic foreign policy figures, along with diplomats who
have worked for Democratic administrations, are saying the
administration needs to do more to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe
and preserve U.S. influence in a key Mideast state.
The views of these figures, including former Clinton administration
Defense Secretary William Perry and former Obama administration
officials Ann-Marie Slaughter and Dennis Ross, add to pressure on the
White House from regional allies and Republican rivals as the Syrian
conflict has intensified.
Photos: Syria conflict [Graphic content]
"You´ve seen more calls for action, starting on the right and now on
the left," said Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy
Initiative, a conservative group that advocates a strongerU.S.
militaryrole in Syria. He said the evolving nature of the war —
including the regime´s use of more deadly aircraft, the rising death
toll and fear of a growing terrorist presence — has led to more
voices calling for action.
The Obama administration has imposed sanctions and diplomatic
pressure on the regime of President Bashar Assad. It also is
providing nonlethal aid, such as communications gear, to the Syrian
But the White House fears that military involvement could intensify a
sectarian proxy war, and it worries about divisions among world
powers and war-weariness at home. Also, Syria has formidable Russian-
built air defenses that are supported by Russian personnel.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told MSNBC on
Thursday that "the reality is that a no-fly zone is not a simple
proposition" and would involve putting in troops as well as
destroying air defenses "that are among the most sophisticated in the
The Democratic critics, while stopping short of proposing a ground
invasion, maintain that more must be done.
Perry, secretary of Defense during the Bosnian civil war, said in an
email that he favors a "no-fly, no-drive zone" in northern Syria that
would provide safety for insurgents and civilians. Ross, a top
administration national security aide until November, has also been
advocating creation of a safe zone in northern Syria, like the one
the United States created in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian
Slaughter, former head of the State Department´s policy planning
office, has urged that rebel commanders be supplied with
sophisticated antitank and antiaircraft weapons if they commit to
protecting civilians and vow to not engage in sectarian killings.
Madeleine Albright, secretary of State under President Clinton, said
in an interview that she finds no fault with the Obama
administration´s efforts to date and would not support a "flat-out
But she said the U.S. and other world powers should now be "sorting
out whether various humanitarian corridors can be established for the
refugees" and whether more can be done to provide humanitarian and
"I´m very concerned about what´s happening to the people," she said.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, has suggested that the administration and other
governments take another look at the idea of creating safe zones in
Administration officials said this week that they were still
considering all the ideas, including no-fly zones. On Friday, they
announced new economic sanctions on Syria and a new terrorist
blacklisting of Hezbollah, a Syrian-allied Shiite Muslim militia in
Lebanon, because it has been providing training and operational aid
to the regime.
Meanwhile, the British government announced that it was giving the
Syrian opposition $7.8 million in medical supplies and electronic and
Fighting and military shelling continued Friday in the Syrian city of
Aleppo as rebels said they had regained control of the strategic
Salahuddin neighborhood. More than 80 people were killed, including
45 whose unidentified bodies were found in a park in Salahuddin,
The U.S. role in Syria has divided Republicans as well as Democrats.
The dominant Republican point of view is that of Sens. John McCain (R-
Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who have called for the U.S. to
provide arms, intelligence and training to the opposition and to use
air power to help protect the de facto safe zones that are taking
shape in northern Syria. But some Republican heavyweights, including
former secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and James Baker, have
Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP presidential candidate, has called for
more assertive U.S. action on Syria but not offered specifics,
suggesting that he is wary of appearing too eager for military action.
Polls indicate that there is not widespread support for a majorU.S.
militaryrole in Syria despite the mounting death toll.
About two-thirds of Americans say the United States is not required
to intervene militarily in Syria because they believe that it
is "important but not vital" to U.S. security, said Andrew Kohut,
president of the Pew Research Center. A Times staff writer in Beirut
and Times staff writer Henry Chu in London contributed to this
report. (Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times 08/11/12)
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