National Security Brief: Hagel Confirms U.S. Is Considering Sending Weapons To Syrian Rebels

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday confirmed reports that the United States is considering arming rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military.

“That’s an option,” Hagel said during a press conference with British Defense Minster Philip Hammond, adding, “These are options that must be considered with partners, with the international community, what is possible, what can help accomplish these objectives.”

In a separate meeting with reporters, Hammond sounded a simliar note of caution, despite Britain’s firm assessment that Assad has used chemical weapons against the opposition. “For that evidence to have any chance of being admitted in court, it would need to have been collected under controlled conditions, secured through a documented chain of custody to the point where it was tested,” Hammond said. “We do not yet have samples that meet that standard of evidence.”

Meanwhile, the U.N.-Arab League peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, told top U.N. officials that he intends to resign, “marking the end of another doomed U.N. diplomatic effort to end a bloody civil war that has left over 70,000 dead, according to U.N.-based diplomats,” the Washington Post reports.


In other news:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports: The Pentagon has redesigned its biggest “bunker buster” bomb with more advanced features intended to enable it to destroy Iran’s most heavily fortified and defended nuclear site.
  • The AP reports: Civilian deaths [from drone stikes in Yemen] are breeding resentments on a local level, sometimes undermining U.S. efforts to turn the public against militants. The backlash is still not as large as in Pakistan, where there is heavy pressure on the government to force limits on strikes — but public calls for a halt to strikes are starting to emerge.
  • Reuters reports: April was Iraq’s bloodiest month for almost five years, with 712 people killed in bomb attacks and other violence, the United Nations Iraq mission said on Thursday.