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Following General Dempsey's Lead,
British Minister of Defense Demurs
on Military Action in Syria

May 3, 2013 (EIRNS)—In an April 30 event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey once again cautioned against the U.S. taking military action in Syria. Not only is the ability to establish a no-fly zone in Syria uncertain, he said, but there's not guarantee it would not suck the U.S. deeper into war, and lead to retaliatory actions against the U.S. even outside Syria.

In that light Dempsey questioned whether such an action would generate the desired effect of ending the violence and creating a stable Syria. He said:

"[T]hat's the reason I've been cautious about the application of the military instrument of power: because it's not clear to me that it would produce that outcome."

A press conference in Washington May 2, by the Queen's own defense minister, Philip Hammond, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, saw both of these officials reflect a similar kind of caution.

First, asked if he was committed to moving ahead on arming the Syrian rebels, as press leaks have indicated that the Obama administration is ready to do, Secretary Hagel demurred. "We have a responsibility—and I think General Dempsey would say the same thing—to continue to evaluate options. It doesn't mean that the president has decided on anything," he said. When asked directly if he was now in favor of arming the rebels, he said: "I'm in favor of exploring options and see what the is — is the best option in coordination with our international partners." He then added that he hasn't come to any conclusion as to whether or not arming the rebels is a good idea.

British Defense Minister Hammond struck a different note, stressing that a prime concern of the British is the legality of any action. Hammond stressed that the Cameron government would expect "detailed legal advice" from the attorney general "about whether a proposed course of action was legal and proportionate in the circumstance that then prevailed," if there was evidence of use of chemical weapons. He added that if there were further alleged attacks using chemical weapons

"that would generate new opportunities for us to establish a clear evidence of use to — to a — a legal standard of evidence."

"U.K. public opinion remembers the evidence we were presented with in 2003 around Iraq, which turned out not to be valid. There is a very strong view that we have to have very clear, very high-quality evidence before we make plans and act on that evidence."