Top US officials claim the Obama administration is still wary of formally recognizing the Syrian opposition and of directly sending them arms, after about a year of limited meddling has contributed in an apparent stalemate in Syria’s bloody civil war.
Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Syria who left Damascus in February, said “the president has never taken the provision of arms off the table” but that “arms are a tactic, not a strategy.”
“We think that a military solution is not the best way for Syria,” Ford continued. “Efforts to win this by conquering one side or another will simply prolong the violence and aggravate an already terrible humanitarian situation.”
The US admits it has been aiding the Syrian rebels with non-lethal assistance, and reports have found the CIA to be set on the Turkish-Syrian border funneling weapons from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others to Syrian rebel groups.
But the Syrian opposition is increasingly made up of extremist jihadis, many of whom have committed war crimes and many of whom are fighting under the banner of al-Qaeda. Still, the US has tried to bolster certain other elements of the opposition to clear the way for direct US support.
“It appears as though the opposition is now capable of holding ground and that they are better equipped and more able to bring the fight to the government forces,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a conference on Thursday. “I don’t know if you can say that the entire country is at a tipping point, but it certainly seems that the regime will be harder pressed in the coming months.”
“Clinton denied a report Thursday by the Associated Press which stated that the administration is already planning to recognize the new Syrian opposition council that Clinton and her State Department were instrumental in helping establish, reports Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy. “She also declined to confirm a New York Times report Thursday that the administration is considering providing direct arms to some members of the Syrian opposition.”