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US to deepen Syria intervention by arming militants: Officials

Syrian anti-government militants

The Obama administration is considering a deeper intervention in Syria, including direct supply of arms to militants and planting CIA and NATO intelligence agents in the country, in efforts to overthrow the Damascus government.

The most urgent decision, expected to come next week, is the deployment of NATO surface-to-air missiles in Turkey, supposedly to shield the neighboring country from what US officials are increasingly publicizing as ‘incoming Syrian missiles,’ US daily The New York Times reports Thursday, quoting “officials involved in the discussions.”

According to the report, while there is a broader debate within the Obama administration on “how heavily America should intervene in another Middle Eastern conflict,” no decision has yet been taken. However, following Obama’s reelection, the White House is “more willing to take risks” on a bolder intervention.

The report further quotes a “senior administration official” as claiming that “recent tactical successes” by anti-Damascus militants “has given this debate a new urgency, and a new focus.”

While some US officials involved in the debate worry that the risks of intervention, in terms of American lives and triggering a wider conflict, “are too great to justify action,” others insist that more aggressive US action in Syria justifies human losses there since it provides Washington the opportunity to deal a blow to Iran’s ally in the region.

According to the report, discussions over military intervention in Syria are currently in progress among top US officials in the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA, resembling “a similar one among America’s main allies.”

The daily cites “intelligence officials and independent specialists on Syria” as saying that Obama administration review of its Syria policy is part of a bid “to gain credibility and sway with opposition fighters” on the ground.

“The administration has figured out that if they don’t start doing something, the war will be over and they won’t have any influence over the combat forces on the ground,” the report says, quoting Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence officer and specialist on the Syria military.

In detailing US support so far for anti-Syria action, the report further points to “a small number of CIA officers” secretly operating in southern Turkey for several months, “helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border would receive shipments of weapons.”

In addition, the report adds, the US has offered “only limited support to the military campaign against the Syrian government,” giving USD200 million in “humanitarian” aid. The weapons, it adds, “are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries overseen mainly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”

American officials, however, are further cited as saying that the Obama administration is now debating whether the US should play “a more direct role” in supplying militants in Syria with weapons “to help ensure that the arms reach the intended groups.”

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