General Martin Dempsey
General Martin Dempsey Israel news photo: US Chiefs of Staff website

An American attack against Syria's chemical weapon stashes would not only be a complicated and delicate military mission – it would also be a very expensive one, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey.

A report on CNBC Sunday quoted America's top military man as saying that the operation could easily get out of control very quickly, as there would be many small operations that would need to be taken care of on such a mission, any one of which could set off a major conflagration.

CNBC was quoting from a July 19 letter it said Dempsey had sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee. In order to bring Syria to heel, he wrote, it would be necessary to “destroy portions of Syria's massive stockpile, interdicting its movement and delivery, or by seizing and securing program components." Doing that would require instituting a no-fly zone, as well as massive missile attacks.

Although President Obama said specifically in his Saturday night declaration that he would leave the details of the American response up to Congress that there would be “no American boots on the ground,” Dempsey wrote to the senators that “thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces would be needed to assault and secure critical sites,” according to the report.

The project, Dempsey added, would cost at least a billion dollars a month, a steep cost for an already deeply indebted U.S. In addition, he wrote, the U.S. needed to take into consideration the complicated nature of the mission, as U.S. troops would have to not only fight Syrian Army forces, but figure out ways to ensure that Syrian rebels allied with Al Qaeda did not seize Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons before American troops had a chance to destroy them, Dempsey was quoted as telling the senators.