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Washington looks set to send Syrian rebels aid with 'direct military purpose'

Published time: May 01, 2013 04:18
Edited time: May 02, 2013 14:25
AFP Photo / Miguel Medina

AFP Photo / Miguel Medina

US President Barack Obama is reportedly considering supplying weapons for Syrian forces fighting to oust President Bashar Assad and his government. It comes days after Obama said his administration had evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria.

Senior White House officials leaked word of the plan to the Washington Post just days after Obama decried what he saw as the Assad regime’s “willingness to escalate its horrific use of violence” on the Syrian people but claimed that Washington was exhausting all available options before deciding whether to aid the insurgency.

The Obama administration has increased its attempts to sway Russian President Vladimir Putin from his position of non-intervention in Syria. US Secretary of State John F. Kerry is planning a trip to Moscow in the coming days to discuss the situation with Putin before a scheduled meeting between the two presidents in June.

During a news conference Tuesday Obama told reporters he needed 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” increased pressure on the Assad government.

Obama’s comments, combined with snippets from his subordinates, could be interpreted as a not-so-subtle reference to the disastrous US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

We’re clearly on an upward trajectory,” a senior Obama official told the Washington Post. “We’ve moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose.”

AFP Photo / Miguel Medina

It was not revealed what type of military action the US is considering, but the results of a New York Times/CBS News poll reveal that 62 per cent of the American public thinks the US has no responsibility to get involved in the Syrian conflict.

Still, the unnamed senior official reportedly said that Obama has “not closed the door to other military actions” and that the US decision-makers are “reviewing all options.” 

The White House has steadily moved toward militarizing the rebels in recent months, first saying it would provide food and medical supplies then announcing body armor and night-vision goggles would be sent.

On Tuesday Obama told reporters the US knows chemical weapons were used in Syria, although it’s unclear in what capacity and by whom. He said the only solution is Assad’s resignation.

I think it’s important to understand that for several years now what we’ve been seeing is a slowly unfolding disaster for the Syrian people,” Obama said. “And this is not a situation which we’ve been simply bystanders to what’s been happening. My policy from the beginning has been that President Assad had lost credibility, that he attacked his own people, has killed his own people, unleashed a military against innocent civilians and that the only way to bring stability and peace for Syria is going to be for Assad to step down.”