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US State Department rules out ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria
By MICHAEL WILNER
20/02/2014
All other policy options ‘remain on the table here,’ says spokeswoman; Assad behind schedule on shipping out stockpiles of chemical weapons.
 
WASHINGTON – The US clarified on Wednesday that military force in Syria is one of many options under review by President Barack Obama and his national security team.

Obama and his advisers are revisiting all policy opportunities in response to the deepening crisis.

The president’s administration still believes, however, that “there is no military solution to the conflict,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on the phone from Vienna, where comprehensive negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are under way.

“We continue to constantly reevaluate different policy options,” Harf said. “All policy options remain on the table here except for boots on the ground.”

That delineation – between limited military force and more thorough involvement in the conflict – was parsed thoroughly in Washington in late August 2013, after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed 1,400 civilians, including more than 500 children, with sarin nerve gas.

The US vowed to retaliate in order to enforce an international ban on the use of chemical weapons. But instead, Assad promised to give up his massive chemical arms stockpile, in a deal brokered by Russia.

During that debate in the US Congress over the authorization of use of military force, the administration said it could pinpoint targets in the infrastructure of Assad’s army that would amount to an “unbelievably small,” but effective, attack.

But on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney suggested that the president remained unconvinced that military action, of any kind, was unconvinced that military action, of any kind, would further US interests.

“We have to examine what the alternatives some might be proposing are, and whether they’re in our national security interests, and whether a desire to do something about it could lead us, the United States, to take action that can produce the kind of unintended consequences we’ve seen in the past,” Carney said in his daily press briefing.

Harf, however, has repeatedly said that the US retains the option of using military force against Assad should he fail to comply with the September chemical weapons agreement.

His government is behind schedule: Syria’s entire stockpile – more than 1,000 tons – was to be shipped via the Mediterranean Sea for destruction by June of this year, according to the deadline set by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Only three shipments have left the Syrian port of Latakia.

About 11% of the chemical arms have been destroyed.
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