Lawmakers say US should consider arming the Syrian opposition

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and several other lawmakers say the United States should consider arming the opposition forces in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad continues to kill civilians in a government crackdown.

Graham cautioned that before arming the opposition, he would want to know that they have a plan to govern “so that we don’t just have another civil war.”

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“That is probably where we are headed, is giving the opposition forces' capacity, humanitarian aid, medical aid and maybe even military assistance,” Graham said Tuesday. “Before arming them I would want to know what efforts have they made to put together a governing coalition."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, also told reporters Tuesday that “we should start considering all options, including arming the opposition. The blood-letting has got to stop."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) made similar comments on Sunday, suggesting at a conference in Munich, Germany, that the United States should ultimately provide the opposition with weapons.

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But the White House is stopping short of taking the step to arm the rebels at this point, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

“We are not considering that step right now,” Carney said. “We are exploring the possibility of providing humanitarian aid to the Syrians.”

Still, Carney said that “there will be a transition in Syria” from the Assad regime amid continued international pressure for Assad to stand down.

“We are going to continue to work with our international allies and partners and other friends of Syria, and the Syrian people, to continue to pressure the Assad regime so it ceases this reprehensible behavior,” Carney said.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in Munich this past weekend that the administration has many different options for dealing with Syria, adding that the situation is different than in Libya, where the United States aided rebel forces.

"Syria is not Libya," Kerry said, according to Foreign Policy. "But nobody should interpret that statement to suggest that it means that Syrian leaders can rely on the notion that they can act with impunity and not expect the international community to assist the Syrian people in some way."

The Obama administration on Monday condemned China and Russia for vetoing a United Nations resolution on Syria as the United States withdrew its ambassador from Syria and closed its embassy there over security concerns.

“Russia must realize that betting everything on Assad is a recipe for failure,” Carney said Tuesday in response to Russia’s foreign minister traveling to Damascus to meet with Assad.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he won a promise from the Syrian president that the violence in Syria would end, according to Reuters.

The BBC reported that the Syrian army resumed mortar attacks and heavy-machine-gun fire in the city of Homs on Tuesday, after activists said 95 people were killed on Monday.

— Erik Wasson contributed.