Intervening in Syria Riskier Than Libya: US Officials

Military intervention would likely require long, dangerous mission
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2012 9:35 AM CDT
A Syrian woman walks along a street in the town of Rastan on March 11, 2012.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Using the US military to intervene in Syria would be much more complicated and dangerous than the military intervention in Libya was, senior Pentagon officials say. President Obama asked the Pentagon for preliminary military options following increasing pressure from Republicans including John McCain, the New York Times notes. However, the Obama administration still prefers diplomatic and economic pressure, and Pentagon officials seem to agree. Specifically, there are fears of high civilian casualties and the possibility of ending up in confrontations with Syria allies including Iran and Russia.

The opposition in Syria is splintered into as many as 100 groups with no clear leader, and unlike Libya, the rebels are scattered and don't have a hold on any particular area; both factors make the rebels particularly difficult to arm, train, or organize. Because of the locations of Syria's air defenses, vast numbers of civilians would likely be killed even in precision strikes. And those air defenses are Russian-made and more advanced than Libya's, requiring a high number of American aircraft engaging in a lengthy operation to take them out. Even creating "safe havens" inside the country would require "months if not years" of US troops on the ground, says one senator and former Army Ranger. Meanwhile, in Homs, 45 women and children were reportedly stabbed and burned yesterday.

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