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US Ponders Escalated Involvement in Syria's Civil War

New policy might provide armored carries, flak jackets, night-vision equipment and even military training

- Jon Queally, staff writer

As fighting and violence intensifies in Damascus and across Syria, reports on Wednesday signal that the US government is readying to further its involvement in the Middle East nation's ongoing civil war by providing "body armor and armored vehicles, and possibly military training" to the opposition forces aligned against the ruling government of President Bashar al-Asad.

Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons during heavy clashes with government forces at a military academy besieged by the rebels north of Aleppo, Syria. Narciso Contreras / AP Sparse details of the potential change in US policy was reported by the Washington Post which cited both European and US officials and comes as newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry makes his first trip abroad as chief diplomat.

According to the Post:

Elements of the proposed policy, which officials cautioned have not yet been finalized, are being discussed by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in meetings this week and next with allies in Europe and the Middle East as part of a coordinated effort to end the bloody stalemate, which has claimed about 70,000 lives.

Those talks — along with a nearly two-hour meeting in Berlin on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a Thursday conference with allies and leaders of the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Rome — are expected to weigh heavily on administration deliberations.

Kerry has repeatedly made indirect references to a policy shift during his travels. He told a group of German students Tuesday that the United States wants a “peaceful resolution” in Syria, but if its leaders refuse to negotiate and continue to kill citizens, “then you need to at least provide some kind of support” for those fighting for their rights.

And CNN adds:

The United States is also looking to remove restrictions on "dual-use" equipment, such as those involving communications, body armor, flak jackets, night-vision equipment and military vehicles, according to another source familiar with the policy discussions.

Such items are defensive in nature, but they could be used to aid in combat. The training would be intended to help rebels allocate resources and set objectives, strategize and possibly train a potential police force, the source said.

"They are doing a redefinition of what is lethal," the source said. "They have been working on this for a while." 

Critics, however, continue to warn the US from furthering its involvement—especially militarily— in Syria given the unmitigated failures of past military forrays in the region, namely in Iraq in 2003 when the US preemptively invaded, and more recently in Libya when unintended but foreseeable blowback resulted from US intervention.