It looks like the U.S. government will give serious thought this week to arming Syrian rebel groups, days after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces re-captured the key city of Qusair. Secretary of State John Kerry, according to an AP report, has pushed back his mideast trip this week because the White House is planning to discuss sending weapons to some rebel groups.
Kerry was supposed to go to Israel and Palestine to hack away at a peace plan for the region. But, perhaps because Syria's situation became even more pressing this week, the Associated Press's sources say that reported trip is off, for now. They're reportedly going to discuss at least two more drastic interventions in the conflict, with one much more likely than the other:
Arm the rebels: Kerry et al. will discuss giving lethal aid to "vetted, moderate rebel units" fighting against President Assad. They, as the pro-intervention John McCain has described them, are seen as the "good guys" by U.S. officials. But there's one big problem with arming rebel forces, namely that extremist groups are also fighting against Assad. While McCain seems to think that sorting the good from the bad is totally do-able, the U.S.'s ability to selectively arm here has been a big question mark for awhile — and one of the main reasons for western hesitancy towards getting involved.
Declare a no-fly zone: This, as the AP notes, is what McCain wants. It'd be an attempt to enforce restrictions on Assad's air game in Syria, but the option is unlikely to be something the U.S. will go for. But it's apparently not off the table. The AP explains:
"A no-fly zone...would require the U.S. to first neutralize Syrian air defense systems that have been reinforced with Russian technology and are far stronger than those that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi had before the U.S. and its Arab and European allies helped rebels overthrow him in 2011. And unlike with Libya, Washington has no clear international mandate for authorizing any strikes inside Syria, a point the Obama administration officials has harped on since late 2011 to explain its reticence about more forceful action."
Meanwhile, the Syrian government held a victory celebration in Qusair, after re-capturing it from the rebels with the help of Hezbollah. The militant group, according to the Los Angeles Times, wasn't exactly a prominent visible presence in the celebrations.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.