Smoke rises after what fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) said were U.S.-led air strikes on the mills of Manbij where Islamic State militants are positioned, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
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The U.S. administration sought Friday to contain fallout from a leaked internal memo critical of its Syria policy, but showed no sign it was willing to consider military strikes against President Bashar Assad's forces called for in the letter signed by dozens of U.S. diplomats.Several U.S. officials said that while the White House is prepared to hear the diplomats' dissenting viewpoint, it is not expected to spur any changes in President Barack Obama's approach to Syria in his final seven months in office. A draft of the cable, signed by 51 State Department officers, calls for "targeted military strikes" against Assad's government – something Obama has long opposed – to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire with U.S.-backed anti-government rebels that is largely ignored by Syria and its Russian supporters.Obama's critics quickly seized upon the letter, which also calls for a political transition that would usher out Assad. Aides have acknowledged privately that even if Obama did decide to take a more aggressive stance against Assad, that would be much riskier now that Russian forces are directly supporting their Syrian ally and bombing anti-government rebels.Friday, Washington denied that there are no U.S. proposals to include members of the Syrian opposition in Assad's government, in response to comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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