US cool on military options against Syria

US cool on military options against Syria

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US cool on military options against Syria

Adm Winnefeld has listened to the opinions of Turkish academics on the issue of the Syrian crisis. Hürriyet photo

The United States is eager hear from Turkish figures about the Syrian conflict, yet the same willingness does not apply to Washington’s prospects for a military option in Syria, a top U.S. general has implicitly indicated to Turkish academics.

Although there is a widely held assumption by Turkish decision makers and opinion leaders that the U.S. administration will show its cards on Syria following the upcoming presidential election and will follow a harder line including military intervention, U.S. officials, including the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. James Winnefeld, imply that Washington will continue not to get involved in the creation of a safe haven in Syria.

Winnefeld held a roundtable meeting with Turkish academics on Oct. 23 as part of his talks in Ankara. The U.S. commander listened to the opinions of Turkish academics on the issue of the Syrian crisis and its implications for Turkey.

The participants, who asked to remain anonymous as it was a rule set for the meeting, told the Hürriyet Daily News that Washington was aiming to set up a roadmap on its Syrian policies for the post-election era.

Difficulties for safe haven inside Syria

When participants raised the issue of establishing a safe haven in Syria, the admiral indicated the unwillingness of Washington as he listed difficulties preventing such a move, saying it would require military intervention, which could also lead to clashes with Syrian security forces.

The outcomes of a safe haven could also trigger serious problems for Turkey, according to Winnefeld. The U.S. official drew attention to previous remarks by Syrian officials that chemical weapons would only be used if anyone attempted military intervention.

He signaled that NATO could intervene in Syria if the regime used chemical weapons. Washington had previously stated that use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be a “red line” in its policy on Syria.

Meanwhile, the U.S. believes a U.N. Security Council decision is necessary for a safe haven in Syria, which is unlikely at the moment, according to the U.S. admiral. NATO would stand by its ally in case of an attack by Syria against Turkey, the admiral also said.

Turkish and U.S. cooperation in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was also a topic at the meeting, where the participants raised concerns that Washington was reluctant to transfer arms to Turkey. The admiral said the U.S. administration supported arms transfers to its ally, but cited problems in American bureaucracy.