Intervention in Syria would implicate US in war crimes, warns top military officer

UN Security Council to hold informal meeting this week with members of Syrian opposition

Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen Martin Dempsey, in a letter to the chairman of the US Senate armed services committee, warned against intervention in the Syrian conflict. Photograph: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen Martin Dempsey, in a letter to the chairman of the US Senate armed services committee, warned against intervention in the Syrian conflict. Photograph: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

 


Martin Dempsey, the US’s highest-ranking military officer, has warned against intervention in the Syrian conflict. In a letter to the chairman of the senate armed services committee laying out military options, Gen Dempsey said arming and training rebels could lead to a deepening of US involvement; would cost $500 million a year initially; would risk arming al-Qaeda forces; and would implicate the US in war crimes.

Limited airstrikes would require the deployment of “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers” and cost billions without seriously degrading the Syrian army’s ability to fight, he added. A no-fly zone banning Syrian warplanes from the country’s airspace would require massive US involvement, including thousands of ground forces, and cost $1 billion a month.

Extremists empowered
Gen Dempsey said US intervention would constitute an “act of war” and could have “unintended consequences” such as destroying state institutions while empowering extremists and unleashing chemical weapons.

In Washington to press for the delayed peace conference, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said: “Arms do not make peace. We would like to see the delivery of arms stopped on both sides.

“It is extremely difficult to bring people who have been killing one another for two years . . . It will take time, but I hope it will happen.” A date for the peace conference , postponed from late May, has not been fixed.

Yesterday, Britain’s ambassador to the UN said the security council would hold an informal meeting with members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition this week, but that the chief rebel commander will not attend because of the situation inside Syria. The meeting will take place on Friday and include political and military representatives of the Syrian opposition, said Mark Lyall Grant.

Saudi-backed tribal leader Ahmed al-Jarba, the new president of the coalition, will lead the delegation, he said. The informal nature of the meeting would “provide a forum for members of the council to have a frank and informal exchange with the National Coalition, to discuss key issues relating to the Syrian conflict,” Mr Lyall Grant added.

Meanwhile, the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have delivered urgent supplies to besieged Aleppo as rebels staged an offensive southwest of the city in a bid to capture strategic locations and cut army supply lines. The 15-lorry UN convoy from Damascus carried diarrhoeal disease and other medical kits, high-energy biscuits, generators and tanks to provide water for more than a million people. Aleppo, which is divided into rebel- and regime-controlled sectors, has 2.4 million affected people.

The rebels reportedly captured three villages, including strategic Khan al-Assal, killing a dozen soldiers. In March, chemical weapons were said to have been used in Khan al-Assal, killing at least 30 people. The sides blame each other for the attack.

Radical Jabhat al-Nusra said it has booby-trapped a major road linking central Syria with Aleppo and has threatened to attack any vehicles using the road, a key supply route for the army. However, the state news agency reported troops had cleared the road of Jabhat elements.


Rebel fatalities
The rebel action in Aleppo followed a weekend army push around Damascus in which 75 rebel fighters were killed. – (Additional reporting by Reuters)