As the United States is revisiting its plans for Syria, US Congressional officials say the idea of using drones against targets in the Middle Eastern country is gaining popularity in Washington.
Washington’s plans for what it calls limited strikes in Syria comes months after the administration of President Barack Obama failed to sell an offensive missile campaign against Syria to America’s war-weary public.
The US President was pushing for military strikes against Syria last summer following reports of a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on the Syrian government.
US Congress also refused to give the green light to Obama for military intervention in Syria and Obama put on hold his planned military strike against the Arab country after Russia helped broker a deal under which Damascus agreed to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal.
Now, with the upcoming midterm elections this year, Obama fears more foreign policy failures and is not willing to risk another defeat.
But, his senior intelligence officials came to his help and broached the issue of militant groups’ plans of carrying out terrorist attacks on US soil in order to convince US lawmakers that drone strikes in Syria could help prevent such attacks on the US.
“We’re seeing now the appearance of training complexes in Syria to train people to go back to their countries and, of course, conduct more terrorist acts. So this is a huge concern to all of us,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month.
CIA Director John Brennan also warned US lawmakers against such potential attacks on the US, saying “with the increasing diversity of the threats and with the growth, as you pointed out, of terrorist elements in places like Syria and Yemen, we have a number of fronts that we need to confront simultaneously.”
Since Syria is not officially a war zone, any potential drone strikes in the country will be clandestinely run by the CIA.
During a speech at the National Defense University last year, Obama also said that Washington reserved the right to use drones wherever the local government cannot, or will not, confront a threat to the US.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington is now reconsidering “military, diplomatic and intelligence options” which were abandoned in favor of talks between representatives of the Syrian government and the foreign-backed opposition in Geneva. The second round of peace talks broke off without any results last week.
However, other reports had already said that Washington planned to step up pressure on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even before the start of the peace talks in Geneva.
Following the first round talks which ended on February 1, insurgents fighting against the Syrian government said the US had increased direct funding to their commanders in Jordan in order to ramp up pressure on Assad’s government.