World Bulletin/News Desk
President Obama is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian opposition and has taken steps to assert a more aggressive U.S. role among allies and partners seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The senior administration officials said they are moving toward the shipment of arms but emphasized that they are still pursuing political negotiation. The administration has launched an effort to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government — and the more direct outside intervention that could provoke — should lead him to reconsider his support of Assad.
But Obama is likely to make a final decision on the supply of arms to the opposition within weeks, before a scheduled meeting with Putin in June, the officials said.
At a news conference, he addressed the allegations of the use of chemical weapons by emphasizing the need to “make sure I’ve got the facts. . . . If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, we can find ourselves in a position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support” additional action.
Yet even as Obama voiced caution in responding to what he has called the “red line” on chemical weapons, the senior officials described him as ready to move on what one described as the “left-hand side” of a broad spectrum that ranged from “arming the opposition to boots on the ground.”
“We’re clearly on an upward trajectory,” the senior official said. “We’ve moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose.”
The officials did not specify what U.S. equipment is under consideration, although the rebels have specifically requested antitank weapons and surface-to-air missiles.
Syria’s neighbors and, according to recent polls, the American public oppose the insertion of U.S. troops in a conflict that is estimated to have killed more than 70,000 people.
U.S. and allied military and contract personnel have been training Jordanian and rebel forces to deal with the chemical weapons threat.
But the senior official, one of several who discussed internal administration deliberations on the condition of anonymity, said Obama has “not closed the door to other military actions.”
No-fly zone concerns
Asked about the possibility of establishing a no-fly zone over rebel-held areas in Syria, the official said the administration was “reviewing all options.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday reiterated his long-held reservations about setting up a no-fly zone, emphasizing that it is more complicated and riskier than advocates believe.
Syria’s air defenses, located in populated areas in the western part of the country, are “much denser and more sophisticated” than those confronted by the international coalition that intervened in Libya during its 2011 conflict, he said.
Establishing a no-fly zone in Syria would require air bases in the region, the positioning of substantial search-and-rescue resources for downed pilots, and the ability to sustain operations for the long term in a time of fiscal constraint and readiness concerns, Dempsey said.
Provision of weapons
The administration has been edging toward the provision of weapons to the rebels for several months.
Partner nations have urged the United States and Obama to take a more active role in helping the Syrian rebels.
Close allies Britain and France also have moved out ahead of the United States with calls for the European Union to drop its arms embargo against Syria and indications that they are prepared to send weaponry to the opposition.
Disputes among partner countries, particularly between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, over which rebel faction to back has led to rising U.S. uneasiness regarding which groups are receiving weapons.Last Mod: 01 Mayıs 2013, 16:09