By MARIA ABI-HABIB
BEIRUT — Dozens of State Department officials this week protested against U.S. policy in Syria, signing an internal document that calls for targeted military strikes against the Damascus government and urging regime change as the only way to defeat Islamic State.
The “dissent channel cable” was signed by 51 mid- to high-level State Department officers involved with advising on Syria policy in various capacities, according to an official familiar with the document. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the cable, which repeatedly calls for “targeted military strikes” against the Syrian government in light of the near-collapse of the ceasefire brokered earlier this year.
The views expressed by the U.S. officials in the cable amount to a scalding internal critique of a longstanding U.S. policy against taking sides in the Syrian war, a policy that has survived even though the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has been repeatedly accused of violating ceasefire agreements and Russian-backed forces have attacked U.S.-trained rebels.
The State Department acknowledged the existence of the cable, which is a formal, confidential diplomatic communication, but would not comment on its contents until top officials had a chance to review it.
Obama administration officials have expressed concern that attacking the Assad regime could lead to a direct conflict with Russia and Iran.