By Julian Pecquet - 03/28/13 10:16 PM EDT
President Obama is at odds with Vice President Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and others on his national security team on whether to provide body armor and other non-lethal military equipment to vetted rebels battling Bashar Assad's regime in Syria, Foreign Policy reported Thursday.
The president's National Security Council principals all agreed to the aid last month, according to the report, but Obama has not acted on it. The Washington Post first reported last month that the administration was considering sending the aid, but Thursday's report is the first to claim that the council has sent the president an interagency recommendation urging the shift in policy.
“I’m not going to discuss the details of our internal deliberations, but let me be clear that the President has not rejected the option of providing further non-lethal military assistance such as body armor and night vision goggles to the Syrian opposition,” she said in a statement. “As the President himself has said, we are constantly reviewing every possible option that could help end the violence and accelerate a political transition.”
The report suggests Obama is increasingly isolated in his stance on Syria. More and more lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are urging greater U.S. involvement in a conflict that has caused more than 70,000 deaths over the past two years, and Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey revealed last month that they had joined then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus in recommending last summer that the United States send weapons to vetted rebels.
The issue was debated ahead of Kerry's trip to a meeting with Syrian rebels in Rome late last month. Kerry ended up announcing $60 million in direct food and medical aid to the rebels, but made no mention of non-lethal military assistance.