U.S. PREPARES BASIC PLANS FOR MILITARY HELP TO SYRIAN OPPOSITION

The Washington Times on March 7, 2012, reported on the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first time revealing that the United States is preparing basic plans to attack Syria to stop President Bashar Assad from killing unarmed protesters against the government.

“We have looked at a number of options that could be involved here,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He said the Pentagon is waiting for President Obama to decide whether the preparation goes beyond what he called a basic military assessment before developing detailed contingency plans that would identify specific military units that would be involved in any action.

Gen. Dempsey said potential military options include limited airstrikes and the establishment of a no-fly zone and a humanitarian corridor to deliver relief supplies.

Some committee members questioned why the administration opposes arming the opposition, which includes some soldiers who have defected from the Syrian army. The United Nations estimates that the Syrian regime has killed more than 7,500 protesters during the past year.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the committee, urged military intervention to stop the killings.

“Assad needs to know that he will not win, and unfortunately that is not the case now,” said Sen. McCain.”How many more have to die? Ten thousand more? Twenty thousand more?”

In the House, the Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation, imposing tougher sanctions on Mr. Bashar and other top officials and targeting the energy and financial sectors.

“Assad’s regime is digging in for a long-term war, and news reports indicate that the regime is bragging about mass ‘cleansing,’” said committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican.

Also Wednesday, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki repeated his offer of asylum for Mr. Assad, after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin refused to even consider sheltering the Syrian leader. He was elected president again on Sunday.

“If the price of peace in Syria is to give safe haven to this guy, why not?” Mr. Marzouki told the British Broadcasting Corp.

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