The outgoing head of the British Army said the West would have to invade Syria if it wanted topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
. “You have to be able, as we did successfully in Libya, to hit ground targets,” General David Richards told The Telegraph. “If you want to have the material effect that people seek [i.e. Assad’s ouster] … you would be going to war if that is what you want to do.”
Britain’s most senior military officer explained that the West would need to destroy the Syrian government’s air defenses, tanks, and armoured personnel carriers.
The general’s comments came the same day his U.S. counterpart, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, told a Senate committee that the Obama administration is considering the use of military force in Syria.
The four star general, who is America’s top military officer, said that he provided President Barack Obama with options for the use of force in Syria, including “kinetic strikes,” and that the issue “is under deliberation inside of our agencies of government.”
“Senator, I am in favour of building a moderate opposition and supporting it,” he said. “The question whether to support it with direct kinetic strikes … is a decision for our elected officials, not for the senior military leader of the nation.”
Thus the West is at a crossroads when it comes to Syria. Britain has abandoned plans to arm Syrian rebels, noting that it won’t make a significant impact on the outcome, and similar plans have stalled in the U.S.
“That is rightly a huge and important decision,” UK Army chief Richards said. “There are many arguments for doing so but there are many arguments for not doing so too.”
In March Dempsey implied military force would be a bad idea: “I don’t think at this point I can see a military option that would create an understandable outcome. And until I do, it would be my advice to proceed cautiously.”
U.S. military options range from one-off missile strikes on infrastructure linked to chemical weapons, to funelling more weapons to rebels, to carving out no-fly zones, and even as far as putting 20,000 U.S. troops in Jordan for a ground invasion.
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