Civil War Escalates with US Support
The White House appears intent to send military aid to Syrian rebels with key lawmakers raising concerns that U.S. weapons will inevitably fall into the hands of terrorist
groups who count themselves among hundreds of factions
that form the rag-tag Free Syrian Army.
The operation is shaping up to be similar to the one executed in Libya: just wash, rinse, and repeat. Libya, however, is still in disarray nearly two years after our involvement there.
President Obama, seeking to stem a bloody civil war that has now claimed more than 93,000 lives, has authorized food and medicine for the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad but had stopped short of military aid. That’s about to change.
Word of the stepped up assistance followed new U.S. intelligence assessments showing that Assad has used chemical weapons, including sarin, on a small scale multiple times in the last year. U.S. intelligence estimates 100 to 150 people have been killed in those attacks, the White House said, constituting a small percentage of the people killed in Syria over the last two years.
The White House said it believes Assad’s regime still maintains control of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and does not see any evidence that rebel forces have launched attacks using the deadly agents.
But with U.S. officials confirming Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians – crossing Obama’s “red line” – the White House strongly indicated that weapons are on the way.
“The president has been very clear that all options are on the table, with the exception of U.S. troops on the ground. That is not a possibility,” Meehan said.
Initial military aid is expected to consist of small arms and ammunition the rebel forces could operate without significant
The Washington Post reported:
“U.S. officials said the administration could provide the rebels with a range of weapons, including small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired remote-propelled grenades and other missiles. However, a final decision on the inventory has not been made, the officials said.”
But the opposition Free Syrian Army said on Friday those weapons would be largely “meaningless.” The Syrian Opposition Coalition called for more “strategic and decisive” support.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. could try to establish a “no-fly zone” inside Syria to protect civilians fleeing the fighting and rebels who might train there. The White House did not say if this is an option currently under consideration.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who recently met with Syrian rebel leaders, said he was told Thursday that Obama had decided to “provide arms to the rebels,” a decision confirmed by three U.S. officials. But McCain said on the Senate floor Thursday that the rebels desperately need more powerful armaments.
“These people of the Free Syrian Army need weapons and heavy weapons to counter tanks and aircraft, they need a no-fly zone,” McCain said. “Just providing arms is not enough.” McCain said.
Obama will discuss broader problems in Syria next week during the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland. Among those attending will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch ally of the Assad regime. Obama and Putin will hold a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of the summit, where the US leader is expected to press his Russian counterpart to drop his political and military support for the Syrian government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign affairs adviser said Friday Moscow is not convinced Syria has used chemical weapons, saying the information provided by U.S. officials to Russia “didn’t look convincing.”
Syria has denied the use of chemical weapons and calls the US claims “a pack of lies.”
US support may be too little too late. 20,000 pro-regime fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran are already preparing for a major assault on the main city of Aleppo that is set to begin anytime.
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You can read more in The New York Times’ “U.S. Is Said to Plan to Send Weapons to Syrian Rebels“