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AMERICAS > US plans no Syria attack after November elections

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Washington’s envoy to Ankara dismisses rumors that the US may invade Syria after presidential polls, saying military intervention will only be a last resort

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Serkan Demirtaş Serkan Demirtaş serkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

Despite expectations, Washington is not likely to change its non-interventionist Syrian policy even after the presidential election, according to the top American diplomat in Ankara, who said “no one [in the U.S.] is eager to send our soldiers to a foreign country or to get involved in a civil war.”

“I think it would be a mistake to imagine some cynical calculations in Washington, or that the president of the United States will act one way before the elections and a different way after,” Ambassador Francis Ricciardone told a group of reporters Aug. 14.

With less than three months to go before a presidential election in which U.S. President Barack Obama will try to keep his position against Republican candidate Mitt Romney, expectations of more active American involvement in efforts to topple the Bashar al-Assad regime have been growing, if, of course, Obama wins the election. The same expectations have been voiced by some senior Turkish officials as well. However, the American diplomat’s words reflect a rather different picture.

“To the extent that U.S. political calendar and domestic politics in my country or in yours has anything to do with it, first I can tell that it’s overstated,” Ricciardone said.

‘No US soldiers to be sent’

Both the Turkish and American people are peace-loving and do not like to resort to military solutions except as an absolute last resort, Ricciardone said. “We much prefer to find political solutions, economic solutions and diplomatic solutions. So we are extremely reluctant to get involved militarily. Turks and Americans feel exactly the same way.”

Another common point between Turks and Americans is that they share a sense of moral responsibility, and it is hard for both nations to sit back and watch Syrian troops killing their own people, Ricciardone said, adding that this is why Ankara and Washington are working together very closely to find a way to deal with the problem.

“No one is eager to send our soldiers to a foreign country or to get involved in a civil war. None of us are satisfied with the answers so far; the killing continues and we are unable to stop it. We would like to stop it, not today, not yesterday, but a year ago. But we couldn’t. This is the discomfort both peoples and governments have,” Ricciardone said.

No chance for a quick transition

Many in Ankara translate Ricciardone’s words as representing Washington’s unwillingness to get involved militarily in Syria or for Turkey to do so unilaterally. The only concrete development on the issue so far as the U.S. is concerned has been the establishment of new teams of experts to work on potential contingency plans, including providing shelter for fleeing Syrian refugees within Syrian territory. Although the plans do also envisage military planning to establish a no-fly zone or security zone, the ambassador said the discussion of such plans should not be seen as representing a commitment.

Considering the reluctance of European countries to play a more active role in Syria, the current international scene does not have much to offer in terms of ending the suffering of the Syrian people.

August/16/2012

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