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U.S. diplomats urge strikes against Syrian President Assad

By Amy R. Connolly
U.S. diplomats urge strikes against Syrian President Assad
More than 50 State Department diplomats signed an internal memo urging the United States to use military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Pictured, Assad waves after speaking to the Syrian parliament in Damascus on June 6. During his speech, Assad stressed "we will liberate every inch of Syria" from the terrorists." Photo courtesy of SANA

WASHINGTON, June 17 (UPI) -- More than 50 U.S. State Department diplomats signed an internal memo urging the United States to use military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.

The 51 career diplomats who signed the "dissent channel cable" repeatedly called for "targeted military strikes" against the Syrian government as it continues to violate cease-fire agreements in the country's five-year civil war. The memo calls for "a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process."

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The memo also faulted Assad for not allowing humanitarian efforts, such as food and medical supplies, in the war-torn country.

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The memo amounts to a scathing critique of President Barack Obama's longstanding policy of not taking sides in the Syrian War. Obama has continually refused direct U.S. military involvement, saying it would only add to the violence and not improve the situation in the country. The diplomats said the policy of ignoring Assad has fed the Islamic State, leading to the massive refugee crisis across Europe.

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The White House has depended on Secretary of State John Kerry to lead the diplomatic efforts to end the conflict but Assad has felt no pressure to negotiate, the memo said. Diplomats said the government's barrel bombing of civilians is the "root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region."

"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 memo said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

Kerry himself has pushed for a stronger reaction from the United States. Obama, backed by his military leaders, has raised questions about what would happen if Assad was forced out. The memo does not address that scenario.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the dissent channel, established during the Vietnam War for employees to post policy disagreements, is "an important vehicle that the secretary, as well as the department institutionally, values and respects that allows department employees to express policy views candidly and privately to senior leadership." The State Department has 30 to 60 days to respond.

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"We are aware of a dissent channel cable written by a group of State Department employees regarding the situation in Syria. We are reviewing the cable now, which came up very recently, and I am not going to comment on the contents," Kirby said.

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