US General Martin Dempsey
US General Martin DempseyFlash 90

U/S/ officials are debating whether it’s time to consider military intervention in Syria as the country’s chemical weapons arsenal becomes increasingly vulnerable.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff both testified before Senate Armed Services Committe Wednesday, cautioning that any military intervention in Syria should come only as a “last resort,” ABC News reported Thursday.

The two defense officials warned there could be unintended consequences in such activity, as there were in Libya and Iraq.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum have been advocating recently for establishment of a “no fly zone” or a humanitarian aid corridor by the U.S. military in order to aid Syria’s opposition fighters in their war against President Bashar al-Assad.

But it is not at all clear who the opposition is anymore, nor is it clear who will win, when the war is won – even if the Assad regime falls.

“We have an obligation and responsibility to think through the consequences of direct U.S. military action in Syria,” Hagel warned, adding that “military intervention at this point could hinder humanitarian relief operations. 

“It could embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment,” he pointed out.

The Syrian opposition was fragmented to begin with, due to internecine issues. In the past two years of fighting, the rebel forces have since split into two major parts – the “moderate” Syrian National Council, with its Free Syrian Army  backed by the Western world, and the radical Islamist sector represented by the 13-member Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, which includes the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front).

“You better be damn sure, as sure as you can be, before you get into something, because once you’re into it, there isn’t any backing out, whether it’s a no-fly zone, safe zone, protect these – whatever it is. Once you’re in, you can’t unwind it. You can’t just say, well, it’s not going as well as I thought it would go, so we’re going to get out.”

General Dempsey added, “Before we take action, we have to be prepared for what comes next.”