U.S. to aid Syrian rebels, Lebanese paper reports

By Nicholas Nehamas

The U.S. will break its policy of non-intervention in Syria, according to a report in Lebanon’s Daily Star.

Presidents Putin and Obama negotiate at the G20 summit in Mexico. The two leaders have not been able to agree on a joint solution to the Syrian crisis. (Reuters)

The Beirut-based paper quotes unnamed American sources as saying the U.S. will now provide Syrian opposition groups with information on the strategy, equipment and movements of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Previously, the American government had limited itself to lending “moral support” to the beleaguered rebels and helping coordinate arms shipments from third-party countries.

But a series of civilian massacres allegedly committed by Assad-backed troops has apparently forced the U.S. to take greater action. As of yet, the Obama administration has not publicly committed to sending weapons or supplies into Syria, despite exhortations to do so by Senator John McCain and others in Washington.

When asked to respond to The Daily Star report, a State Department spokesperson told LatitudeNews: “Our position has not changed on this. Consistent with our longstanding efforts to support the peaceful opposition in Syria, the U.S. is providing nonlethal material assistance – mostly communication equipment – to the non-violent, political opposition.”

A shift in time?

Syria has dominated conversations between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. Russia is Syria’s strongest ally and continues to arm the al-Assad government. Just yesterday, Western sources reported that Putin was sending marines to secure a Russian naval base in Tartus, Syria, Russia’s only Mediterranean port, though Russian state media denied the claim. Several days earlier a major Russian arms dealer said he had agreed to sell advanced anti-aircraft weapons to Syria, a potential sign that al-Assad fears imminent Western air-strikes.

A girl wounded by shelling is treated at a makeshift hospital in Marrat Masreen, Syria on June 18, 2012. Al-Assad’s forces routinely shell civilian neighborhoods in rebel towns and cities, reports said. (Reuters)

But it also seems possible that international pressure is finally getting to Putin, who promised Russian voters during his election campaign that he would not let NATO do in Syria what it had done in Libya. A Russian ship carrying attack helicopters to Syria is reportedly heading back home after a British firm canceled the vessel’s maritime insurance. Is this a bluff by Putin to buy more time for al-Assad? Or have the Russians simply “exhausted their efforts to rescue” his brutal regime, as The Daily Star reports?

Only time will tell. In the meantime, the carnage continues.

Straight to the Source