US hesitant to arm Syrian rebels due to al-Qaida

White House says its opposition to arming Syrian opposition forces partly based on extremists operating in the country.

February 29, 2012 09:47
1 minute read.
A defected Syrian soldier holds a rifle and flag

A defected Syrian soldier holds a rifle and flag 390 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah )


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One reason the United States is hesitant to arm the Syrian opposition is that "al-Qaida and other extremists are seeking to take advantage of the situation created" by the unrest in that country, the White House said on Tuesday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington's position "that now is not the time to further militarize the situation in Syria" is related to but not solely dependent on the extremist and al-Qaida presence there.

He declined, however, to address US assessments of how many or which terrorist or extremist groups and individuals are operating in Syria.

Meanwhile, the United States military has developed "detailed plans" to intervene militarily in Syria, if it is ordered to do so by the White House, CNN reported on Tuesday.

The report comes three weeks after the US-based cable news outlet said the Pentagon was beginning to prepare such plans. It emphasized that the contingency planning had no significance regarding the likelihood of a political decision being made to intervene against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

One option being considered, CNN reported, was the options available to the US military in facilitating humanitarian assistance currently being discussed in international forums.

On the other end of the contingency spectrum, it added, is the question of what would happen if the entire Assad regime collapsed and leaves a complete vacuum in the country. The White House is reportedly concerned about the fate of chemical weapons it believes Syria possesses.

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