All options on the table regarding Syria, US officials
April 30th, 2013
10:17 PM ET

All options on the table regarding Syria, US officials

By CNN Staff

All options remain on the table as the Obama administration considers what, if any, military action to take in Syria following the suspected use of chemical weapons there, U.S. officials tell CNN.

They say this includes the possibility of providing arms to rebels even though the administration has opposed this step and several caution that its resistance to doing so is unlikely to change.

So far, the United States has provided communications and other non-lethal aid to the rebels fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a two-year civil war.

The administration recently announced that it would double that commitment to $250 million worth of assistance.

A final decision on the composition of the boosted aid will be made after consultation with military commanders, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

Communications equipment, armor, night vision goggles, and vehicles are among items being discussed, Hayden said.

"As the President has said, our assistance to the Syrian opposition has been on an upward trajectory, and he has directed his national security team to identify additional measures so that we can continue to increase our assistance,"she said. "We continue to consider all other possible options that would accomplish our objective of hastening a political transition, but have no new announcements at this time."

But the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Obama is preparing to send "lethal weaponry" to the opposition. But officials also emphasized in the report that supplying arms is one of several options under consideration.

The Post said Obama would likely make a final decision on arms in coming weeks.

Obama said at a news conference on Tuesday that the United States would wait until it has more details on evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria before making any decision on whether to alter strategy.

Obama previously called the use of chemical agents a "red line" for America. What that ultimately means has been an open question since the administration disclosed last week that intelligence had concluded "with varying degrees of confidence" those arms had been used in small amounts.

The United States doesn't yet know "how they were used, when they were used, who used them," Obama said. "When I am making decisions about American national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapons use, I have to make sure I have the facts."

Syria denies that it has used, or even possesses, chemical weapons.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told a Christian Science Monitor luncheon on Tuesday that the military continues to plan and develop options.

"We are looking to determine whether these options remain valid as conditions change," he said.

"Now that doesn't mean that what we've heard over the last week ago wouldn't change the policy calculus - both in this capital and others. But militarily, our task has been to continue to plan, to continue to engage with partners in the region and to continue to refine options so that if we're asked to implement any of them we'll be ready to do that," he said.

But a senior U.S. official highly involved on Syria said the administration is "always planning and there is stepped up planning as a result of all this (chemical weapons) stuff."

"Aggressive leadership, yes. That means haranguing the opposition until they are blue in the face and talking to the Arabs and others, like we have been doing," the official said. "But there is no talk of arms and I would be stunned if we ever go down that route."

But another senior U.S. official, who is directly involved in military planning, said the issue of lethal aid remains on the table as a possible policy option just like everything else, but there is no indication that has accelerated in recent days for a possible policy change.

That official said concerns involve an opposition in Syria that has grown more diverse, magnifying the question of where arms might ultimately wind up.

New legal authorities would be required for arming rebels and allies in the region, like Jordan and Israel, are also nervous about increasing the flow of weapons already coming from Gulf States, the official said.

CNN's Jessica Yellin, Elise Labott, Barbara Starr and Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Security Brief • Syria
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  3. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
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    May 1, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  4. Joe M.

    One option that should not be on the table is an upcoming U.S. military intervention! The last thing this country needs is another useless and unnecessary war in the Middle East but unfortunately, the M.I.C. stands a chance to make a great deal of money out of this and thus profit from this war.

    May 1, 2013 at 10:04 am | Reply
  5. USMC1371

    Only option we need to know is "Stay the hell out, they want freedom let them earn it not us"

    May 1, 2013 at 5:21 am | Reply
  6. saeed

    then come on iran is going to teach the usa a lesson you want a fight then thow the first blow then iran is going to sever the head of the usa and britain.

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