The White House is set to begin arming Syrian rebels starting this week.
Moved by the Assad regime’s rapid advance, the Obama administration could decide this week to approve lethal aid for the beleaguered Syrian rebels and will weigh the merits of a less likely move to send in U.S. airpower to enforce a no-fly zone over the civil war-wracked nation, officials said Sunday.
White House meetings are planned over the coming days, as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces are apparently poised for an attack on the key city of Homs, which could cut off Syria’s armed opposition from the south of the country. As many as 5,000 Hezbollah fighters are now in Syria, officials believe, helping the regime press on with its campaign after capturing the town of Qusair near the Lebanese border last week.
Opposition leaders have warned Washington that their rebellion could face devastating and irreversible losses without greater support, and the warnings are prompting the United States to consider drastic action.
Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a planned trip Monday to Israel and three other Mideast countries to participate in White House discussions, said officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
While nothing has been concretely decided, U.S. officials said President Barack Obama was leaning closer toward signing off on sending weapons to vetted, moderate rebel units.
The U.S. has spoken of possibly arming the opposition in recent months but has been hesitant because it doesn’t want to al-Qaida-linked and other extremists fighting alongside the anti-Assad militias to end up with the weapons.
Obama already has ruled out any intervention that would require U.S. military boots on the ground. Other options such as deploying American air power to ground the regime’s jets, gunships and other aerial assets are now being more seriously debated, the officials said, while cautioning that a no-fly zone or any other action involving U.S. military deployments in Syria were far less likely right now.
More of the same. More death and violence in Syria as the US continues to sink deeper in the Syrian quagmire.