The Corner

Report: Private Hagel Memo ‘Sharply Critical’ of Obama’s Syria Strategy

Looks like former cabinet officials aren’t the only ones criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy.

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a story on rumors that the Obama administration, angry over a series of international slip-ups, may fire top foreign-policy officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry or Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Buried in that piece was the revelation that last week, Hagel sent a “sharply-critical” two-page memorandum to national-security adviser Susan Rice on the White House’s Syria strategy. The defense secretary worries that a lack of clarity on how to deal with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad could “unravel” the entire American campaign to defeat the Islamic State and bring some measure of stability to Syria.

By conducting heavy air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria, the United States has taken jihadist pressure off of Assad. With one flank secure, the dictator has turned his might against “moderate” Syrian rebels in the country’s south and west — the very forces President Obama hopes to partner with in order to reverse the Islamic State’s territorial gains. Hagel’s memo reportedly pushed the White House to pursue more aggressive action against Assad.  

At a Pentagon press conference on Thursday, Hagel did not deny his disagreement with the White House on Syria. “We are constantly assessing, and we are constantly adapting, and we are constantly working through different options,” he told a reporter. “So your question about, should we be more aggressive [against Assad]? We are looking at every option. That’s why we meet so often on this issue.”


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