In 2012, the CIA proposed a detailed covert action plan designed to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, but President Obama declined to approve it, current and former U.S. officials tell NBC News.
A former CIA operative reveals in a book to be published Tuesday that senior CIA officials were pushing a multi-tiered plan to engineer the dictator's ouster.
Doug Laux, who joined CIA at 23, describes spending a year in the Middle East meeting with Syrian rebels and intelligence officers from various partner countries as part of the CIA's Syria task force.
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Laux said the White House and CIA leaders made it clear that the goal of his task force was to find ways to oust Assad from office. "We had come up with 50 good options to facilitate that."
But the president, who must approve all covert action, never gave the green light.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus and others who supported the plan believe it could have prevented the rise of ISIS and the European refugee crisis, the former officials say.
President Obama has not commented on the full CIA plan, but he has said arming Syrian rebels would not have worked.