The Pentagon is planning a major escalation of the US-led war against Syria, involving direct US military involvement to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In a letter to Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Martin Dempsey spelled out proposals and cost estimates for various potential US interventions in Syria. His plans include training opposition militias in Syria; missile strikes against Syrian targets; setting up a "no-fly zone" to ground or destroy Syria's air force; seizing "buffer zones" of Syrian territory near Jordan or Turkey; and Special Forces raids to seize chemical weapons.
Pentagon plans include large-scale operations, costing at least tens of billions of dollars per year. Dempsey said Special Forces strikes would cost over $1 billion a month, and missile strikes -- requiring "hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers" -- would cost "in the billions."
Dempsey's letter followed a vote last week by the US House and Senate intelligence panels to directly arm opposition forces in Syria. Until now, they had been funded and armed by US-allied oil sheikdoms such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and not directly by the US. This allowed Washington to cynically claim the opposition was not on its payroll, even as the CIA coordinated the flow of arms and money.
The Obama administration lobbied intensively for the votes to arm the opposition in Syria. Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director John Brennan, and Secretary of State John Kerry all called or briefed members of Congress.