Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Eliot Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent the following letter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, requesting clarifications on possible U.S. options in Syria.
General Martin Dempsey
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
9999 Joint Staff Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20318-9999
Dear General Dempsey:
After reviewing your July 19th letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin outlining options for the use of U.S. military force in the Syrian conflict, I am writing to request further clarification regarding the possible use of limited stand-off strikes.
Specifically, your letter states that conducting limited stand-off strikes targeting “high-value regime air defense, air, ground, missile, and naval forces as well as the supporting military facilities and command nodes” would require “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers” and that “the costs would be in the billions."
While I do not profess to be a military expert, it is clear that this analysis does not fully reflect an even more limited option that some have advocated, which would involve cruise missile or other stand-off weapon strikes on regime-controlled air bases.
While a more limited strike of this nature would not degrade the regime’s military capabilities to the same extent as the option outlined in your letter, it could help prevent the Assad regime from using aircraft against innocent civilians and members of the opposition that the Administration has decided to train and arm. It could also help reduce the flow of arms from Iran, Russia and others that continue to assist the Assad regime.
It stands to reason that this even more limited stand-off strike option would come at lower cost to taxpayers than the options outlined in your letter, and could be accomplished with fewer military assets. Most importantly, it would not involve putting any US boots on the ground or in Syrian airspace.
As Congress continues to consider the pros and cons of U.S. military involvement in the Syria conflict -- which has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths, generated millions of refugees and
internally displaced persons, and increasingly threatens to destabilize the entire region -- I respectfully request that you provide me with additional information regarding the force requirements and estimated costs associated with a more limited stand-off strike option focused on degrading regime-controlled air bases.
ELIOT L. ENGEL