In an apparent shift in policy, the Obama administration has decided to intensify its assistance to the Syrian opposition and is considering military involvement, according to a report in the Washington Post.
Last week, senior Obama administration officials agreed on a variety of options to aid both the internal opposition and the opposition-in-exile, which are reported to include direct humanitarian and communications assistance. They also furnished a new and more aggressive strategy to coordinate US engagement, and have begun “serious discussions” about directly arming the opposition, deploying troops to secure a humanitarian corridor, or establishing a no-fly zone in Syria.
One administration official said that “[t]hese moves are going to invest the US in a much deeper sense with the opposition. US policy is now aligned with enabling the opposition to overthrow the Assad regime. This codifies a significant change in our Syria policy.” The shift is likely a recognition that the international coalition known as the ‘Friends of Syria’ has failed in its efforts to effectively address the crisis.
Though the new strategy is intended to increase cooperation with the main external and internal opposition bodies, which all coordinate with the Free Syria Army (FSA), the Obama administration is still reluctant to engage the FSA due to concerns that it is unstructured and comprised of extremist elements. Thus, for the meantime, it will focus on fostering the Syrian National Council as the locus point for humanitarian, military, and technical assistance.
The report comes as former UN Secretary General and current international envoy to Syria Kofi Annan is in Syria for meetings with President Bashar al-Assad. Annan said he was “optimistic” about resolving the crisis, but Assad said a solution is impossible as long as his country continues to be menaced by “terrorists” whom he blames for the uprising.
Saturday saw another day marred by violence, with activists reporting at least 90 people killed, many of them in Idlib, where the Syrian government renewed its assault on the town.