More than 50 State Department officials signed a confidential document this week that calls for targeted military strikes against Syria and lobbies for regime change, according to news reports.
The document 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,” reported The New York Times, which said it received a draft of the memo from a State Department official.
The memo urges the U.S. to carry out these strikes to stop the government of President Bashar Assad from continued violations of a cease-fire in the country's 5-year-old civil war.
The cease-fire, which went into effect in February, was brokered by the U.S. and Russia, a Syria ally, between forces loyal to the Syrian government and Western-backed rebels trying to overthrow it. The agreement called for a halt in hostilities to allow aid groups to deliver humanitarian supplies and services to areas that have been besieged by government forces backed with Russian airstrikes. The truce was also needed before U.N. peace talks could resume in Geneva.
But the plan has been in tatters with repeated violations, and the peace talks never got off the ground. In May, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for reviving the cease-fire. But major foreign powers have yet to agree on a date.
The document was filed in the State Department’s “dissent channel,” a forum set up during the Vietnam War to enable employees to log their opposition to policies with top officials, according to the Times.
The Wall Street Journal, which said it also received a copy of the cable, noted that while filing a complaint wasn't that unusual, the number of people who dissented — 51 — was.
“It’s embarrassing for the administration to have so many rank-and-file members break on Syria,” a former State Department official who worked on Middle East policy told the Journal.
On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said a 48-hour cessation of hostilities had been declared in a city that has been besieged by fighting in the war, Aleppo. However, there were reports of airstrikes just hours into the truce in the city, which is divided between rebels and government sectors. Several similar truces have been declared in the city in recent months.
The Syrian observatory says more than 3,000 people have been killed in the country since the truce negotiated between the U.S. and Russia was put in place Feb. 27. In all, the war has killed nearly 500,000 people and displaced 11 million, fueling the critical refugee crisis in Europe.
Source: USA Today