Top general says military options are open as pressure mounts on Syria

President Obama’s top military adviser urged a diplomatic solution to the mounting violence in Syria, but said that the Pentagon was prepared to present military options to intervene if asked to do so.

“The events in Syria over the weekend are just horrific. Atrocious, really. I expect that the international community, that pressure will mount,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview on Monday with CBS News.

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Dempsey’s comments came after U.N. observers reported a massacre of around 100 people – including children – late last week, by forces allied with Syrian strongman Bashar Assad.

“I think that diplomatic pressure should always precede any discussions about military options. And that is my job by the way, is options, not policy. So we will be prepared to provide options if asked to do so,” Dempsey said.

He similarly told Fox News on Monday that military intervention isn’t off the table. “There is always a military option,” he said, according to Fox, but signaled caution.


“You'll always find military leaders to be somewhat cautious about the use of force, because we're never entirely sure what comes out on the other side,” he said, according to Fox. “But that said, it may come to a point with Syria because of the atrocities.”


The killings Friday in the village of Houla, close to the central city of Homs, have drawn strong condemnation from the international community.

A White House spokesman called them a “vile testament to an illegitimate regime” over the weekend and United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon, who issued a statement May 26 called on the Syrian government to “immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centres.”

“This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian Government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centres and violence in all its forms,” he said.

The Syrian government, however, has denied responsibility for the civilian deaths.

The reported massacre led presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney to blast the administration's handling of Syria. In a statement released Sunday, Romney called for arming opposition forces who have fought to oust Assad from power for over a year. 

"President Obama can no longer ignore calls from congressional leaders in both parties to take more assertive steps," said Romney.

Lawmakers led by Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) have pushed for greater assistance to anti-Assad forces, but elements in the administration and military have cautioned that sending weapons could intensify violence and prolong the conflict.

Click here for more of The Hill’s weekend coverage of the Syrian conflict.