The Obama administration Friday struggled to contain the fallout from a leaked internal State Department cable signed by more than 50 mid-level diplomats slamming the White House’s Syria policy and calling for “targeted [U.S.] military strikes” against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad to boost embattled pro-U.S. rebel forces.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who was traveling in Copenhagen, said he had not yet read the dissenting cable but would do so soon, while other administration officials said the unusually broad internal revolt is unlikely to change President Obama’s policy of avoiding a direct U.S. military confrontation with Mr. Assad to end Syria’s brutal 5-year-old civil war.
But the State Department cable, sent through an established channel for Foreign Service officers to question established policy, presented one more challenge to Mr. Obama’s hands-off approach to the crisis, even as Russia and Iran have rushed to provide military backing for Mr. Assad, their ally.
White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman told reporters the administration is “always open to new and different ideas when it comes to the challenges in Syria,” but stressed that Mr. Obama simply “does not see a military solution to the crisis in Syria and that remains the case.”
Said State Department spokesman John Kirby, “We are obviously interested in looking at other views,” but “none of those other options are better than the one we we’re pursuing.”