U.S. Mulls Increased Involvement in Syria
President Barack Obama has signaled the possibility of recognizing the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Reports indicate that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may announce the recognition at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco on December 12. “We’ve been looking for them to establish a leadership structure that’s clear to everybody, but also discrete committees that can deal with the various issues that they are assuming responsibility for,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. However, the Obama Administration remains wary of arming the rebels. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said, “Arms are a tactic, not a strategy. We think that a military solution is not the best way for Syria. Efforts to win this by conquering one side or another will simply prolong the violence and aggravate an already terrible humanitarian situation.”
Recent activity at Syria’s chemical weapons sites put NATO allies on high alert. A senior U.S. administration official said, “The president has made it clear that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a red line for the United States. We consistently monitor developments related to Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, and are in regular contact with international partners who share our concern.” The Pentagon estimates upwards of 75,000 troops would be required to neutralize the chemical weapons should an intervention take place.
Heavy fighting took place between rebel militias and government troops on the outskirts of Damascus. In recent weeks, rebels have overrun a number of military bases and taken control of several border crossings into neighboring Turkey, as well as large swaths of territory in northwestern and eastern Syria. In other news, internet in Damascus came back online following a two-day blackout. Activists say the regime cut the connection ahead of a planned offensive against the rebels, while the Assad government blamed “terrorist” action.