US officials have reportedly said that the determination to send weapons to the
Syrian opposition had been made as early as April, and that Syrian President Bashar
Assad's use of chemical weapons merely provided fresh justification to
According to The Washington Post, US President Barack Obama’s
decision to arm the Syrian rebels followed over a year of internal
report stated that once Syrian government forces, with
assistance from Hezbollah and Iran, began to turn the war in Assad’s favor,
"Obama ordered officials in late April to begin planning what weaponry to send
and how to deliver it."
Quoting US officials, the Post
report stated that April
decision effectively ended the lengthy debate in the White House. On Thursday, a US official said Obama had authorised sending US weapons
to Syrian rebels for the first time.
As the debate appears to be put to bed, Syrian artillery and warplanes pounded rebel areas in Damascus on Saturday as President Bashar Assad's foes pleaded for advanced weapons from the United States, which has promised them unspecified military aid.
Western powers have been reluctant in the past to arm Syrian insurgents, let alone give them sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles that might fall into the hands of Sunni Islamist insurgents in rebel ranks who have pledged loyalty to al-Qaida.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Salim Idriss told Reuters
on Friday that
rebels, who have suffered setbacks at the hands of Assad's forces in recent
weeks, urgently needed anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, as well as a
protective no-fly zone.
"But our friends in United States, they haven't
told us yet that they are going to support us with weapons and ammunition," he
said after meeting US and European officials in Turkey.
A source in the
Middle East familiar with US dealings with the rebels has said planned arms
supplies would include automatic weapons, light mortars and rocket-propelled
Western diplomats said on Friday the United States was considering a no-fly zone
over Syria, but the White House said later that it would be far harder and
costlier to set up one up there than it was in Libya, stressing that the United
States had no national interest in pursuing that option.
have few ways to counter Assad's air power. The pro-opposition Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights said jets and artillery had attacked Jobar, a
battered district where rebels operate on the edge of central Damascus, on
It said heavy artillery was also shelling opposition fighters
in the provinces of Homs, Aleppo and Deir al-Zor.
A Turkish official said
71 Syrian army officers, including six generals, had defected to Turkey, in the
biggest single mass desertion from Assad's military in months.
Nations says at least 93,000
people, including civilians and combatants, have
died in the Syrian civil war, with the monthly death toll averaging 5,000 in the