The initiative was ostensibly backed by key decision-makers in Washington, including then CIA chief David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, who served as the US secretary of state, and Leon Panetta, who was secretary of defense at the time. But it was Barack Obama, who remained unconvinced that the plan was the right way to proceed.
"We had come up with 50 good options to facilitate that. My ops plan laid them out in black and white. But political leadership… hadn't given us the go-ahead to implement a single one," Laux lamented.
Barack Obama later authorized a program aimed at providing non-lethal support to the Syrian rebels. He recently defended this approach in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg. "The notion that we could have – in a clean way that didn't commit US military forces – changed the equation on the ground there was never true," the journalist quoted Obama as saying.
The US has long maintained that al-Assad must resign before any meaningful peace process could be launched. The ongoing UN-sponsored peace process, endorsed by Russia and the US, offers indirect proof of Washington's shifting agenda. The resolution that paved the way for the Syrian ceasefire and the peace talks made no mention of al-Assad's fate.
Laux is said to have resigned from the agency "in frustration." The task to come up with a plan to remove Assad was his final assignment.