US diplomats criticise Barack Obama's Syria policy, urge anti-Assad strikes

Washington: A group of US diplomats have used a State Department channel for dissident views to criticise President Barack Obama's Syria policy, a spokesman confirmed Thursday.

The official would not discuss the contents of the cable, but the New York Times and Wall Street Journal said the dissenters call for US strikes against the Syrian regime.

"We are aware of a dissent channel cable written by a group of State Department employees regarding the situation in Syria," State Department spokesman John Kirby told AFP.

US President Barack Obama. PTI

US President Barack Obama. PTI

"We are reviewing the cable now, which came up very recently," he added.

The department's "Dissent Channel" allows diplomats who disagree with an official policy line to register their concerns with senior staff without fear of retribution.

Kirby said US Secretary of State John Kerry "values and respects" the device, but would not be drawn on whether he believes this specific complaint has merit.

According to the New York Times, which said it had seen a draft of the memo, the diplomats call for the US military to directly target Bashar al-Assad's regime.

US forces are engaged in Syria but are assisting local militias to fight the Islamic State jihadist group, not confronting Assad's Russian and Iranian-backed forces.

The memo, according to the Times, calls for "a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons" — in other words cruise missiles, drones and perhaps direct US air strikes.

With only seven months left in office and a clear aversion to getting bogged down in Middle East conflicts, Obama has shown little appetite for such action.

But the administration's alternative policy — to work with Russia to secure a ceasefire in Syria's civil war and talks on a political transition — has made little headway.

The Journal report said the memo was signed by 51 mid- to high-level senior State Department officials.

Updated Date: Jun 17, 2016 07:56 AM

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