President Obama has resisted involving the United States by sending arms to Syrian rebels, even as he came under intense pressure from outspoken members of Congress – and some of his own senior advisers. Today, many are praising the president’s decision to authorize lethal aid, though some critics contend that it still is not going far enough.
The White House is reportedly rejecting calls to send anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry. With the rebels losing important strongholds in recent days to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, White House officials insisted on the decision to provide small arms and ammunition to the opposition.
A Senior White House official described on Friday the evidence that the White House feels now proves chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said: “That includes open-source reporting, intelligence reporting, and it includes the accounts of individuals. It also includes physiological samples of sarin."
President Obama drew a sharp line in the sand back in March – much to the surprise of his own senior officials. “I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer,” he said. But after issuing the ultimatum, the President held off arming the opposition, worried that US weapons would fall into the hands of rebels who back Al-Qaeda.
Now that the White House believes there is definitive proof that Syria has used chemical weapons, President Obama authorized lethal aid on Thursday.
But Senator John McCain calls the White House decision "too little, too late." He said on Friday that the rebels are getting badly beaten and that time is not on their side. Again, McCain is calling for greater U.S. involvement.
No decision has been made on whether the U.S. would help enforce a no-fly zone.