By Josh Lederman - 02/12/12 03:47 PM EST
The United States should arm and assist Syrian opposition forces working to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Sunday.
Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said the Pentagon is putting plans together and that it is time to "help the brave Syrian freedom fighters."
The Obama administration has repeatedly called for Assad to step aside in Syria, but has shied away from any direct intervention, such as arming opposition forces.
"The encouraging news is the Pentagon is putting together plans to make that happen if the president decides to order it," Lieberman said.
Backed with the crucial support of the Arab League, the U.N. Security Council attempted last week to push through a plan for Assad to step aside, but those efforts were thwarted by Russia and China.
Lieberman said he wouldn't support sending ground troops into Syria, but that U.S. intervention was even more necessary in Syria than it was in Libya, where U.S.-backed NATO forces helped the resistance movement oust former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
"We went into Libya for humanitarian, moral reasons. We did the right thing," Lieberman said. "But Iran is the greatest threat to security in the Middle East and in the world today - the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. Iran's only ally in the Arab world is Syria.
Lieberman is an outspoken supporter of Israel and advocate for its security, and has urged the United States to consider military action to impede the nuclear program of Iran, whom he called the country's "sworn enemy."
Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent who caucuses with Democrats but frequently bucks his former party, backed Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign in 2008, and said Sunday that he would consider backing a Republican again in 2012.
"It's possible, but what I'm most likely to do, since I'm not running for reelection and enjoying not being in elected politics, is to stay out of this, and vote privately."