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For Obama, Few Options in Syria

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
February 24, 2014
Defense One


Once again, with some renewed urgency, White House officials have asked the administration's Syria policy team to return to the menu of limited and lousy options available in Syria. Syria's war has grown bloodier since the United States chose not to launch military strikes last summer in favor of a deal to get chemical weapons out of the hands of President Bashar al-Assad. The second round of Geneva talks on the country's future have produced little aside from a commitment to convene and a growing sense that the sides aren't yet ready for the negotiating table. Meanwhile, the bloodletting continues and the regime continues to drop barrel bombs onto Syrian civilians.

There is great frustration in Washington at the slow pace of talks and the acceleration of the killing. Ideas under consideration, according to senior administration officials and those familiar with Syria policy, include counterterrorism operations inside Syria, stepping up efforts to arm moderate rebels and humanitarian airdrops of food and other supplies to assist Syrians trapped in the war's crossfire. But few expect the military options to appear any easier or be much better received than they were the last time. As the administration has said for months, and as President Barack Obama said last week, "there is no military solution" in Syria.

Congress's deep skepticism has also put a chill on the resurging talk of potential military intervention. Lawmakers refused the administration the authority for intervention last summer, and Congress seems no more interested in the use of limited, if sustained, military force than it was in August.

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