The worsening situation in Syria has accelerated deliberations inside the Obama administration about the next steps for the U.S. ahead of next week’s Group of Eight Summit with world leaders.
“We’re fully aware about the worsening situation in Syria and are assessing options in light of that,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today.
The U.S. is “concerned by the involvement of outside actors in trying to prop up” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Carney said. At the same time, the Syrian opposition “has strengthened and has become more sophisticated” and the U.S. has “worked more directly with them and developed stronger relationships with leaders within the opposition.”
Carney’s comments came a day after top U.S. national security officials met at the White House to discuss options that may include arming the Syrian rebels, and after former President Bill Clinton said at an event yesterday that President Barack Obama should act more forcefully in Syria.
The Syrian rebellion will be a leading topic when Obama and other world leaders meet next week at the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland. The group is composed of leaders from the U.S., France, U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia.
Clinton, according to a report published by Politico, said that aid to the Assad regime from Russia as well as Iran and Hezbollah raises the question of whether the U.S. should “do something to try to slow their gains and rebalance the power so that these rebel groups have a decent chance.” Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel.
Asked to respond to Clinton’s critique, which was made in a closed event at the McCain Institute for International Leadership in New York, Carney said that Obama welcomes advice from “people who have expertise in this matter” while taking a long-view approach.
White House Meeting
Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among participants yesterday at the White House meeting on Syria policy, according to a U.S. official.
Kerry canceled plans for a trip to the Middle East this week to participate in the talks including discussions about what the U.S. can do to aid rebel forces opposing Assad’s regime. The official asked not to be identified because the meeting wasn’t publicly announced.
Obama didn’t attend as he was traveling for political events in Massachusetts and Florida.
“We’re meeting to talk about the various balances in this issue right now,” Kerry told reporters yesterday, speaking about deliberations over Syria policy in general and not about the White House meeting. Assad is “making it very difficult” for the U.S. and allies to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, he said.
“I have nothing to announce about that at this point, but clearly the choice of weapons that he has engaged in, across the board, challenge anybody’s values and standards of human behavior,” Kerry said at a joint news conference with U.K. Foreign Minister William Hague. “We’re going to have to make judgments for ourselves about how we can help the opposition to be able to deal with that.”
Obama’s administration is under press