US Secretary of State John Kerry has said an internal memo calling for stronger military action against the Syrian government is an “important statement” which he would consider when he returns to Washington.
“It’s an important statement and I respect the process, very, very much,” Kerry said Friday in Copenhagen.
An internal document, signed by 51 State Department officials involved with advising on Syria policy, called for targeted strikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield,” the cable reads.
Their urgent call for military action closely resembles the arguments Kerry has been making in Situation Room debates on how to force President Assad to accept a transition of power, administration officials said, according to the New York Times.
Kerry has warned President Barack Obama that unless Washington is willing to put more pressure on Assad, he will simply wait out the end of Obama’s second term in office.
“For quite some time, Secretary Kerry has had real reservations about the president’s approach to Syria,” Frederic C. Hof, a former special adviser to the White House on Syria, told theTimes.
“His mellow reaction might indicate sympathy,” he added.
An official familiar with US debates on Syria said while the “dissent channel” diplomats are simply urging airstrikes to force President Assad into negotiations, Kerry would consider military operations to shift the balance of power in the country.
Critics of the US policy on Syria seized on the leaking of the cable to intensify their calls for the White House to act more aggressively against the Assad government.
During a press briefing at the Saudi Embassy in Washington on Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Riyadh has long been pushing for a military campaign to overthrow President Assad.
“There should be more robust intervention,” he said when asked about the State Department cable. “If the Bashar regime feels that it can continue in a stalemate, much less prevail, there will be no incentive to take the necessary steps to bring about a transition.”
The Saudi minister reiterated that from the onset of the Syrian crisis, Saudi Arabia has strongly favored “a more robust policy, including air strikes, safe zones, a no fly zone, (and) a no drive zone.”