President Obama has directed his national security team to identify ways to significantly ramp up U.S. support of the opposition forces battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Among the options under consideration is supplying arms to rebel forces, although no decision on that has been made.
The first step will likely be a dramatic expansion of nonlethal aid to opposition fighters.
“The items to be supplied will be decided after consultations with the Supreme Military Command,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. ”Additional communications equipment, armor, night-vision goggles and vehicles are among the items being discussed.”
Hayden also suggested aid to the rebels could go beyond such nonlethal assistance.
“We continue to consider all other possible options that would accomplish our objective of hastening a political transition,” she said.
The aid is intended to tilt the balance in favor of the rebels and hasten the fall of the Assad regime. It is not a direct response to chemical weapons evidence, but a recognition that the situation in Syria has gotten worse and the only real solution is for Assad to go.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week that the United States would be doubling aid to the opposition, bringing the total U.S. aid to $250 million, including nonlethal supplies to the opposition’s military wing.
Beyond that, senior administration sources say, the White House is actively considering supplying the rebels with arms. This is a move Obama has resisted for fears that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands.