By Justin Sink and Jeremy Herb - 05/02/13 10:08 PM EDT
President Obama said Thursday that the United States was "looking at all options" in Syria, hours after Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelThere's still time for another third-party option Hagel says NATO deployment could spark a new Cold War with Russia Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill MORE said the administration was reconsidering its opposition to arming rebels in the country.
"As we've seen evidence of further bloodshed, potential use of chemical weapons ... what I've said is we're going to look at all options," Obama said at a press conference in Mexico City.
"We want to make sure we look before we leap and that what we do is actually helpful to the situation," Obama said.
At a press conference at the Pentagon, Hagel said no decisions have been made, but confirmed reports that the administration is considering taking the new step of arming Syrian rebels in the wake of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.
“You look and rethink all options. It doesn’t mean you do, or you will,” Hagel said.
Obama said at a press conference Tuesday that confirmation Assad’s regime has crossed his “red line” would prompt him to consider a “range of options” that have not yet been used. The president reiterated Thursday that the investigation to confirm the use of chemical weapons was ongoing.
Hagel emphasized Thursday that the situation is not a static one, and would not say whether he personally supported providing arms to the rebels.
“I’m in favor of exploring options and seeing what is the best option,” Hagel said.
Last year, Obama rejected a proposal to provide arms to vetted Syrian rebel groups that was backed by former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonClinton scheduled to interview with FBI: reports Dem platform draft adopts Sanders proposal on taxing foreign earnings GOP: time to end convention Rules madness MORE, former CIA Director David Petraeus and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
There is concern about providing arms to rebel groups because the opposition is splintered and contains groups affiliated with al Qaeda.
The White House’s disclosure last week that it has intelligence assessments that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons sparked new calls for arming rebel groups and establishing a no-fly zone.
The administration is proceeding with caution toward military steps, however, citing the problems with intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war.