Senators ask for assessment on Syria

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) sent a letter to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday asking for his assessment on a number of U.S. related issues, including Syria.

"What is your assessment of the costs, benefits, and risks associated with training and arming vetted elements of the Syrian opposition," Senators McCain and Levin asked in the letter. "In your view, could such action alone be sufficient to adequately build the military capability of the moderate opposition in Syria and create the necessary conditions for the Administration's stated policy objective-Bashar al-Assad's departure and a negotiated solution to the conflict in Syria-to succeed?"

The senators asked Dempsey about a variety of issues related to U.S. policy in Syria. The questions were prompted after a hearing regarding Dempsey's re-nomination was held on Thursday.

"Specifically, does the United States have the capacity, using stand-off weaponry that would not require destruction of Syria's air defenses, to significantly diminish or limit the Assad regime's ability to use air power, ballistic missiles and heavy artillery, particularly against areas of Syria under opposition control?" Senators McCain and Levin said. "Would diminishing or limiting the regime's capacity to use such weapons shift the balance of power in a way that advances the Administration's stated policy objective?"

Dempsey has yet to respond to the questions asked by senators. His answers will be used to evaluate whether Dempsey will be re-nominated.