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Obama Turns to Diplomacy and Military in Syria, and Is Met With Doubts

Obama Turns to Diplomacy and Military in Syria, and Is Met With Doubts

By DAVID E. SANGER and HELENE COOPER for The New York Times

For the first time in the four-year Syrian civil war, President Obama is beginning to execute a combined diplomatic and military approach to force President Bashar al-Assad to leave office and end the carnage.

As 50 Special Operations troops arrive in Syria to bolster the most effective opposition groups, the administration is gambling that Secretary of State John Kerry will have more leverage to push Russia, Iran and other players toward two objectives: a cease-fire to limit the cycle of killing and the establishment of a timeline for a transition of power.

But the task is enormous, given the number of nations and rebel groups operating at cross-purposes and the tiny size of the American force. Even senior members of the administration express doubts in private about whether the effort is sufficient.

While Mr. Kerry has been optimistic that diplomacy can end the carnage, and has criticized the White House internally for moving too slowly, he has conceded doubts to aides that his strategy of fast-paced diplomacy can harness so many fiercely opposed forces toward a political solution.

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