In light of reports that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on civilians and that military troops are carrying out summary executions of suspected rebels without trial, the U.S. is considering supplying arms to the Syrian rebels.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that for the first time the U.S. is no longer ruling out the possibility of arming the rebels. Last year, President Obama had rejected a similar proposal from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Arming the rebels, that’s an option,” Hagel said during a press conference. ”You look at and rethink all options. It doesn’t mean you do or you will. These are options that must be considered with the international community.”
A European Union ban on arming the rebels expires in a few weeks and Hagel’s British counterpart, Philip Hammond, said Britain would be looking at their options after the ban’s expiration.
Sources within the defense department told a BBC reporter that because the U.S. does not want to directly get involved militarily in Syria, arming the rebels is now considered the “least worst option.”
Both Hagel and Hammond stated that despite multiple reports and photographic proof of the Syrian government using chemical weapons, there is still not enough hard evidence to act. Hammond said that because much of the public clearly remembers the weapons of mass destruction claims in 2003 which led to the Iraq invasion, any evidence of chemical weapons would have to come from “very clear, very high quality evidence.”
More than 70,000 have died in the Syrian civil war.