The United States will give "military support" to the Syrian opposition forces after confirming that the regime of Bashar al Assad has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the rebels over the past several months.
President Barack Obama "has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition. That will involve providing direct support to the (Supreme Military Council). That includes military support. I cannot detail for you all of the types of that support for a variety of reasons," Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters.
The assistance is "aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC on the ground," he added.
Regarding the use of chemical weapons against the rebels, Rhodes said that in doing so the Syrian regime had crossed "clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades" against the use of such weapons.
Obama had declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would change his stance on how to respond to the ongoing civil war there and that has now occurred, Rhodes said.
The president made the decision to provide greater support to the rebels after the U.S. intelligence community unequivocally determined that "the Assad regime has used chemical weapons ... on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year," Rhodes said, adding that those attacks killed at least 100-150 people.
Rhodes said Assad's forces used chemical weapons on March 19, April 13, May 14 and May 23.
Given the new situation, which takes into account evidence gathered by France, Obama is weighing various political and military options on how to respond to the crisis in Syria, but he will not make a decision until after a series of multilateral consultations at the G8 summit next week in Northern Ireland, Rhodes said.
Those options include, among other things, establishing a no-fly zone in the region, as some Republican congressional leaders, including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have demanded.
The U.S. stance continues to be to strengthen the Syrian opposition so that, on the one hand, an end can be brought to the Assad regime and, on the other hand, a political transition in Syria can be facilitated, Rhodes said. EFE