News & Politics

Biden Says U.S. Prepared for a Military Solution in Syria if Negotiations Fail

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, prior to their meeting at Yildiz Mabeyn Palace in Istanbul, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool via AP)

Vice President Joe Biden said at a news conference in Turkey that the U.S. and Turkey were prepared to seek a military solution against Islamic State if negotiations to end the Syrian civil war failed.


The latest round of Syria peace talks are planned to begin on Monday in Geneva but were at risk of being delayed partly because of a dispute over who will comprise the opposition delegation.

Syrian armed rebel groups said on Saturday they held the Syrian government and Russia responsible for any failure of peace talks to end the country’s civil war, even before negotiations were due to start.

“We do know it would better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared …, if that’s not possible, to have a military solution to this operation in taking out Daesh,” Biden said at a news conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Daesh is the pejorative Arabic acronym for Islamic State insurgents who hold parts of Syria.

A U.S. official later clarified that Biden was talking about a military solution to Islamic State, not Syria as a whole.

The Saudi-backed Syrian opposition ruled out even indirect negotiations unless Damascus took steps including a halt to Russian air strikes.

Biden said he and Davutoglu also discussed how the two NATO allies could further support Sunni Arab rebel forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States has sent dozens of special forces soldiers to help rebels fighting Islamic State in Syria although the troops are not intended for front line combat.

Along with its allies Washington is also conducting air strikes against Islamic State militants who hold large chunks of Syria and Iraq and support opposition fighters battling the group.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday he was confident Syria peace talks would proceed, after he held talks with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in Saudi Arabia.

Saleh Muslim, co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main Kurdish political grouping in Syria, said on Friday the Syria peace talks would fail if Syrian Kurds are not represented.

While the United States draws a distinction between PYD, whose fighters it supports, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, Davutoglu reiterated the Turkish position that the PYD’s military wing is part of and supported by the PKK.

These negotiations are going to be beyond torturous. If you think the Israel/Palestinian peace process is grotesquely complicated, just wait until the peace talks in Syria get underway.

Some of the rebel groups who will be sitting on the same side of the table are actually warring with each other, as well as the Syrian army. Iran’s proxy Hezbollah still hasn’t agreed to sit in the same room with the Saudis. President Assad insists he isn’t going anywhere despite the fact that both the U.S. and Russia see his future role in Syria as “transitional” — at best. And even if by some miracle an agreement is reached, what of Islamic State? They aren’t going anywhere and if the rebel militias disband, that only makes them stronger.

Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Libya — all of those states are exploding into tinier and tinier factions, all at each other’s throat. The Arab world is disintegrating before our eyes and the Obama administration’s role in the destruction cannot be ignored. Either through inaction or clumsy intervention, President Obama has set in motion a chain of events whose outcome is far from certain and could yet ignite a general war in the region.