Reuters reports: Obama administration officials have begun considering tougher responses to the Russian-backed Syrian government assault on Aleppo, including military options, as rising tensions with Moscow diminish hopes for diplomatic solutions from the Middle East to Ukraine and cyberspace, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
The new discussions were being held at “staff level,” and have yet to produce any recommendations to President Barack Obama, who has resisted ordering military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s multisided civil war.
But the deliberations coincide with Secretary of State John Kerry threatening to halt diplomacy with Russia on Syria and holding Moscow responsible for dropping incendiary bombs on rebel areas of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. It was the stiffest U.S. warning to the Russians since the Sept. 19 collapse of a truce they jointly brokered.
Even administration advocates of a more muscular U.S. response said on Wednesday that it was not clear what, if anything, the president would do, and that his options “begin at tougher talk,” as one official put it.
One official said that before any action could be taken, Washington would first have “follow through on Kerry’s threat and break off talks with the Russians” on Syria.
But the heavy use of Russian airpower in Syria has compounded U.S. distrust of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical intentions, not only in the 5-1/2 year civil war, but also in the Ukraine conflict and in what U.S. officials say are Russian-backed cyber attacks on U.S. political targets.
The U.S. officials said the failure of diplomacy in Syria has left the Obama administration no choice but to consider alternatives, most of which involve some use of force and have been examined before but held in abeyance. [Continue reading…]
The basis for this reporting appears to be an exchange in Tuesday’s State Department press briefing. The suggestion that the administration is now seriously considering its military options sounds like a bit of a stretch. Much more likely is that it is merely restating every administration’s fallback position as it struggles to craft policy: we are keeping all options on the table.
Even if Kerry or Obama was to say, diplomacy has failed, they remain doctrinally wedded to the view that there is no military solution to this conflict.
So, if diplomacy has indeed reached a dead end, I don’t expect to see a tougher response from Obama, but instead, no response at all. All he’s doing now is counting the days until his departure from the Oval Office.