The United States is considering a no-fly zone in Syria and will send small arms, ammunition, and possibly anti-tank weapons to aid rebels in their long-running civil war against President Bashar al-Assad, reports say.
Reuters is reporting two senior Western diplomats said the United States was looking into a limited no-fly zone close to Syria's southern border with Jordan.
"Washington is considering a no-fly zone to help Assad's opponents," one diplomat said.
Meanwhile, CNN reported on Friday the United States will send weapons, provided by the Central Intelligence Agency, to Syrian rebels.
The reports come a day after the Obama administration announced that it had definitive evidence that Assad’s military had used sarin gas and other chemical weapons against opposition forces. The use of the chemicals had crossed a “red line” imposed by President Barack Obama, and the administration said it would increase its military support to the rebels.
But the White House has declined to specify what increased military assistance it would provide.
“I can't give you a specific timeline or itemized list of what that assistance is,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Imposing a no-fly zone could require the United States to destroy Syria's sophisticated Russian-built air defences, thrusting it into the war with the sort of action NATO used to help topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya two years ago.Washington says it has not excluded a no fly zone but is also considering other options.
"We have been clear that we are not excluding options but at this stage no decision has been taken," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Obama's incoming national security adviser.
"A no-fly zone ... would carry with it great and open-ended costs for the United States and the international community. It's far more complex to undertake the type of effort, for instance, in Syria than it was in Libya," U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said on Thursday.
Any such move would also come up against a potential veto from Assad ally Russia in the U.N. Security Council. The Kremlin dismissed U.S. evidence of Assad's use of nerve gas.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday any attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria using F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missiles from Jordan would violate international law.
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