Meanwhile in Syria: Obama to Give Rebels Air Defense Support?

Posted: Mar 28, 2014 3:00 PM

Since President Obama erased his red-line on Syria last year, the story about the brutal and ongoing civil war there has dropped out of the daily news headlines. But today as President Obama visits with officials in neighboring Saudi Arabia, talks about how to handle the crisis are back on the table and include the Obama administration potentially approving air defense systems for rebels fighting the Assad regime.

The Obama administration is considering allowing shipments of new air defense systems to Syrian rebels, reversing its earlier opposition to introducing the weaponry into the conflict, a U.S. official said.

President Barack Obama's possible shift would likely be welcomed by Saudi Arabia, which has been pressing the White House to allow the man-portable air-defense systems, known as "manpads," into Syria. Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday evening for meetings with King Abdullah.

Allowing manpads to be delivered to Syrian rebels would mark a shift in strategy for the U.S., which until this point has limited its lethal assistance to small weapons and ammunition, as well as humanitarian aid. The U.S. has been grappling for ways to boost the rebels, who have lost ground in recent months.

The news of a possible arming of rebels comes without any further details about who exactly the "rebels" are. Multiple reports in the past few weeks have shown al Qaeda fighters are moving into Syria in order to set up bases where they plan to launch attacks against western targets, including the United States. Al Qaeda rebels have also been found working with rebels against Assad fighters.

Meanwhile, the Assad regime has repeatedly missed deadlines to destroy or turn over chemical all weapons as promised last year and it looks like the regime will miss a final deadline coming up in June.

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