Dempsey: Any Military Operation in Syria Would Be Very Complicated
March 8, 2012 • 9:06AM

The Obama Administration is, indeed, clearly committed to regime-change in Syria, but resistance from within the military establishment has so far prevented a military "solution" from being implemented. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey demonstrated the case, yesterday morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dempsey warned against looking at Syria in isolation. "It has to be dealt with in context," he said (which, he and Panetta pointed out, includes Russia), "and we're looking at it through a soda straw." He also pointed out that while the so-called opposition is highly splintered, the Syrian military remains strong. Its air defenses are about ten times that which existed in Serbia during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign of that country, and are primarily concentrated in the populated areas of the country. So, any intervention to create safe havens inside Syria for the opposition forces or other actions would have to be preceded by a lengthy air campaign to get rid of those air defenses. Dempsey also emphasized the necessity of having a legal basis for any operations and the importance of being part of an international coalition in any such action. "Unilateral action doesn't make sense," Panetta said.

As for the presence of Al Qaeda in Syria, Panetta and Dempsey were not willing to get into a detailed discussion on that in the open hearing, but Panetta did confirm that there is intelligence showing that Al Qaeda is in Syria, and that outside assistance to them is coming into the country. Dempsey added that "we're not suggesting that the — that part of Al Qaeda that has made its way to Syria is aligned itself or is in bed with the opposition, but they're there trying to exploit it."