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US Diplomats Criticize Obama’s Syria Policy


FILE - Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Syria, arrives to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the conflict in Syria, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. At left is Nancy Lindborg, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

FILE - Robert Ford, U.S. ambassador to Syria, arrives to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the conflict in Syria, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. At left is Nancy Lindborg, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A group of State Department diplomats has criticized U.S. policy in Syria and called for urgent action to end the country’s civil war.

The criticism came in a memo signed by 51 mid- to high-level diplomats involved in U.S. Syria policy. It calls for targeted airstrikes against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

A draft of the memo was obtained by The New York Times. State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed the memo is real and said the State Department is reviewing it.

It came from a State Department “Dissent Channel” that allows employees and officials to express disagreements with U.S. policies. The channel is a way for individuals to give their opinions without fear of retaliation from superiors.

Robert Ford served as U.S. Ambassador to Syria until 2014. He said, “In my experience dating back to 1985 in the Department of State, I have never heard of a dissent channel message that had 10 signatures – much less one that had 50.”

Ford, now working as an analyst at the Middle East Institute, added that President Barack Obama is unlikely to change his Syria policy.

The memo says Syrian government forces have consistently violated ceasefire agreements. Such violations will keep making it difficult to reach a political settlement to end the war, it adds.

A fighter of the Syria Democratic Forces mans an anti-aircraft weapon in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, May 31, 2016.

A fighter of the Syria Democratic Forces mans an anti-aircraft weapon in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, May 31, 2016.

Syria’s civil war began five years ago when rebel groups were formed to battle government forces. More than 500,000 people have been killed in the fighting and six million Syrians were displaced.

The memo asks the Obama administration to begin a “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons” to directly fight against the Syrian army.

“The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable,” the memo reads.

“The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”

Until now, the Obama administration’s policy in Syria has mainly been limited to aiding rebels fighting against Russian-backed forces loyal to Assad. U.S. airstrikes have also targeted Islamic State fighters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday he had not yet seen the memo. But he said he agrees with the process of giving employees a chance to openly express their views.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Joshua Fatzick reported this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

memo – n. a written message

retaliation – n. striking back against someone for a harmful action

superior – n. – a person presiding over someone else

judicious – adj. having or showing good judgement

rationale – n. the reason or explanation for something

status quo – n. the current situation or the way things are now

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