Levin presses Obama for U.S. military intervention in Syria

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, broke ranks from President Obama on Thursday and sided with Republicans by calling for direct U.S. military intervention in Syria on behalf of the rebels.

“We believe there are credible options at your disposal, including limited military options, that would require neither putting U.S. troops on the ground nor acting unilaterally,” Levin wrote the president, on Thursday, in a letter co-signed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was the committee's ranking member until this year.

The letter comes just days after Levin told The Cable’s Josh Rogin he supported the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, following a hearing with Adm. James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander.

In a March 2012 hearing about Syria, Levin asked for military options from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, even as the administration and Hill Democrats remained skeptical of intervention, unsure of exactly who the rebels were.

On Tuesday, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Dempsey said his advice was to “proceed cautiously” with the idea of U.S. military intervention into Syria’s conflict. “About six months ago, we had a very opaque understanding of the opposition and now I would say it's even more opaque."

“I don't think at this point I can see a military option that would create an understandable outcome,” he said.

But Levin has flipped, joining McCain and urging Obama to consider striking Syrian anti-aircraft batteries to help establish a no-fly zone in Syria’s north, where rebels and civilians have sought refuge. The zone would fall under the additional cover of Patriot missile batteries deployed along NATO’s southern border, in Turkey, Levin claimed. NATO Supreme Allied Commander Adm. James Stavridis said in Senate testimony this week that the Patriots should deter Syrian pilots, Levin said.

Levin also called on the commander-in-chief to destroy Syrian fighter jets where they sit on the ground.

“Such a mission could also include Assad’s SCUD missile batteries and would not require American or allied pilots to fly into the reach of Syria’s air defenses. We urge you to work with our friends and allies, as well as regional organizations, to consider this limited option.”

Finally, the senators asked Obama to increase humanitarian aid.

“We urge you to take steps to ease the suffering of the Syrian people and protect U.S. national security interests,” they wrote.