Syria: US General Lays Out Five Military Options

Entry into Syria is being considered by politicians and officials in the US. Top US military officer General Martin Dempsey has written a letter about possible paths for the US in Syria.

General Dempsey's open letter was released Monday. It says that entering Syria would be "no less than an act of war." With that in mind, Dempsey says, he recommends caution before deciding on military action.

The letter was a response to a request from Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona), CNN reports. In recent months Senator McCain has been outspoken in his support of Syrian rebels. McCain says he wants more supplies sent to rebel groups, including weaponry. It is likely he would support going to war in Syria against Assad.

At present Washington has only allowed humanitarian and non-lethal aid to be sent to Syrian rebel groups.

Join Chiefs of Staff chairman General Dempsey gives five basic paths that could be taken in Syria in his letter. The first is one option to train and advise rebel forces. Some reports say this has already been carried out in secret CIA operations, but this is not confirmed.

Dempsey also says limited strikes against Syrian government forces could be carried out. Establishing a no-fly zone too, is an option. Other strategies could be to create "buffer zones" within Syria. He adds that a military operation would likely need to include a plan to control chemical weapons in Damascus.

BBC says that Dempsey included a cost estimate in his letter. He says that each option would likely cost about $1 billion every month with the exception of training rebels, which would be only $500 million yearly.

General Dempsey says any of these military options would hurt Syrian President Assad. It would also boost rebel forces, which he says might not necessarily be in the best interests of the US.

Remembering the lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dempsey advises senators to "anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action," whichever they choose. If they do decide on outright military options in Syria, Dempsey says "deeper involvement is hard to avoid."

The United States and other NATO nations have been weighing their military options for Syria after recent confirmation that chemical weapons were used by government forces in Damascus.

[Image via Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff via photopin cc]