White House sees 'chaos and carnage' in arming Syrian rebels

The White House on Tuesday said arming Syrian insurgents would lead to more "chaos and carnage" in rejecting calls from presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to step up its help for opponents of the Assad regime. 

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration continues to believe that further militarization in Syria is "not the right course." 

ADVERTISEMENT
He said that the administration is helping the rebels with non-lethal aid and is working with the opposition to help it unify. 

Carney's comments come amid rising pressure on the United States and other actors to take tougher steps against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following a weekend massacre in Houla, Syria, that left more than 100 dead. 

Carney called those killings "a horrifying testament to the regime's depravity,” but said the administration remained supportive of the United Nations peace plan to stop the violence.


The massacre has led to some of the most stinging criticism from Romney on White House policies toward Syria.

“President Obama's lack of leadership has resulted in a policy of paralysis that has watched Assad slaughter 10,000 individuals,” Romney said in a statement Tuesday, his second in three days on Syria.

“We should increase pressure on Russia to cease selling arms to the Syrian government and to end its obstruction at the United Nations," Romney said. “And we should work with partners to arm the opposition so they can defend themselves.”

Romney still has not signaled any support for using airstrikes to create a safe haven in Syria for the rebels, something that hawks in his party like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have been calling for. McCain has described the Obama administration's policies on Syria as "feckless."

The United States was one of a number of countries that expelled Syrian diplomats Tuesday in a coordinated effort following the massacre in Houla that is intended to further isolate Assad.

But Carney acknowledge at his daily press briefing that there's "no evidence" Assad will abide by a cease-fire U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has been pressing. Annan traveled to Syria on Tuesday to meet with Assad, and afterward Annan said Syria was at a “tipping point” after the Houla massacre.

"We believe very strongly that Asaad has to go," Carney said Tuesday.