The National Security Council has reportedly recommended that the United States provide non-lethal aid such as night-vision goggles and body armor to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. However, President Obama has yet to make a decision on the recommendation.
Numerous media outlets have reported that the President has been thinking about whether to approve this kind of non-lethal assistance to the rebels and there has been speculation that it would be part of the aid package that Secretary of State John Kerry announced in February.
But Foreign Policy reports that the plan has the backing of Obama’s top security advisers in the National Security Council, which include Kerry, Vice President Biden, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
Back in early February, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Dempsey said they supported a push by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus to come up with a plan to arm the rebels. Gen. James Jones, Obama’s National Security Adviser until late 2010, said recently that he also supports arming vetted rebels.
The French are also looking at the possibility of providing night-vision equipment. And British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced earlier this month that the UK will provide body armor and armored vehicles to Syria’s rebels. “Each month of violence in Syria means more death, wider destruction, larger numbers of refugees, and bloody military confrontation,” Hague said. “The international community cannot stand still in the face of this reality.”
Pressure from Congress, including key Democrats in both houses, is mounting on Obama to increase American involvement in helping to end Syria’s ongoing two-year civil war. The White House, and NATO, rebuffed a Syrian opposition leader’s request this week for military assistance.
The former head of the U.N.’s peace monitoring mission in Syria on Wednesday called for a no-fly zone in Syria. “I have come to the conclusion there has to be a leveling on the playing field,” Norwegian General Robert Mood told the BBC. “To level the playing field now in the military terms would be to consider no-fly zones, to consider whether the Patriots in Turkey could have a role also in taking on some responsibility for the northern part of Syria.”