Obama Preparing to Arm Syrian Rebels, Officials Say
01 May 13
.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to arm the Syrian rebels and step up American efforts to bring down President Bashar Assad's regime, senior administration officials told the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Officials said the United States is very close to making a decision on the matter, but stressed that the administration is still interested in a political solution that would result in Assad's ouster.
Obama is expected to decide on a course of action in the coming weeks. In the meantime, he is holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders spoke by phone earlier this week, and in the next few days U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel to Moscow to discuss the Syrian crisis.
The Washington Post report came shortly after Obama told a surprise press conference on Tuesday that the United States is not yet prepared to intervene in the Syrian civil war.
Obama said, that if it is determined that the Assad regime used chemical weapons "we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us," but he declined to enumerate what they might be.
He also told the press conference that he was not prepared to rush to respond to growing evidence that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, something he termed would mark the crossing of a "red line" and a game-changer, Obama said: "I meant that we would have to rethink the range of options open to us."
Meanwhile, former Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that "doing nothing" in Syria "is not an option."
In Ashkenazi's estimation, it would have been best to intervene in the Syrian civil war a year ago when there were far fewer deaths and less involvement of extremist Islamic foreign elements.
When asked about his professional recommendation he suggested "trying to help the opposition in a more concrete way, like providing them, instead of non-lethal assistance…weapons, [and] maybe to impose a no-fly zone, at least on part of Syria."
Before any action, however, he said "it should be very clear that [Syrian President Bashar Assad] was aware of it and he was part of it."
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah confirmed for the first time on Tuesday that members of his organization were helping the Syrian president in his war against the rebels. Nasrallah also hinted that Iran and Russia would intervene if the West decides to take military action against the regime in Damascus.