The Obama Administration has opened the door a crack to the possibility of arming the Syrian rebels:
The Obama administration, which has firmly rejected calls to arm the Syrian opposition, appeared at least to allow for the possibility Tuesday by emphasizing that “additional measures” might have to be considered if President Bashar al-Assad continues to escalate his military assault on civilians.
The comments, made by spokespersons at both the White House and the State Department, came as dozens of international leaders prepared to attend an emergency meeting on Syria in Tunis on Friday.
Several governments in the region, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have been at the forefront of efforts to take stronger action against Assad. The United States and others have been resistant.
The specifics of this are a little less than advertised. “Additional measures” could mean anything. Specifically, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “We don’t want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria, because that could take the country down a dangerous path. But we don’t rule out additional measures.”
The biggest problem with arming Syrian rebels is that there is no unified opposition to arm. If little was known about the Libyan rebels, we seem to know even less for Syria. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey said on CNN this weekend, “Until we’re a lot clearer about who they are and what they are, I think it would be premature to talk about arming them.”
Even Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, in their debate last night, both expressed concern over how to arm Syria. Sherman in particular worried about “keeping arms out of the hands of Al Qaeda.” US officials assert that there is some evidence about Al Qaeda in Iraq forces moving in to Syria.
And yet, there’s a lot more activity and alarm on Syria, because of the intense shelling of Homs, the heart of the uprising. Bashar al-Assad has his forces using rockets and tanks to indiscriminately bombard the city, firing into residential neighborhoods. Hundreds have died, and we learned today that two Western journalists are among the dead:
The two Western journalists were killed when rockets struck and demolished the house they were staying in, activists and witnesses in Homs told Reuters by telephone. They were named as Marie Colvin, an American working for Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, and French photographer Remi Ochlik.
The Red Cross wants daily cease-fires to tend to the suffering, but so far, Syria has ignored those calls. If anything needs to be dropped into Homs at this point, it’s humanitarian supplies. The people of Homs are near starvation. Juan Cole suggests the use of drones for the practice:
I’d like to see airdrops of water, food and medicine on Homs and other encircled urban areas if the government won’t pause the fighting or allow a humanitarian corridor. The problem is that the Syrian regime has a lot of anti-aircraft batteries, and might well shoot down the planes being used for the drop. That development in turn might lead to hostilities, which would be very undesirable, and which Russia and China are pledged to block.
Well, I hate those US drones when used for purposes of warfare. But here is a Gandhian use for them. Let us defy the Syrian regime’s misuse of its sovereignty to murder its own citizens by using drones for supply airdrops.
I’m not sure that’s where this is moving. The Administration claimed it intervened in Libya to stop a massacre in Benghazi. This has all the earmarks of a massacre in Homs. That’s why you’re seeing movement here.