Report: White House weighs providing direct aid to Syrian rebels

The White House is considering plans to extend direct aid to Syrian rebels seeking the ouster of President Bashar Assad, according to a report.

The move, first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, would be a major policy shift for the administration, which has been reluctant to provide any military assistance to the Syrian opposition.

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According to the report, the White House is weighing a number of proposals that could include providing equipment such as body armor and armored vehicles or military training. The administration is also considering sending humanitarian aid directly to the rebel groups. But White House officials still remain opposed to providing the opposition with weapons, according to the Post.

The Obama administration has faced pressure from many lawmakers to do more to help forces battling Assad, but the White House has expressed fears that military hardware could fall into the hands of Islamist insurgents.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Romney: Trump 'has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character' MSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) earlier this month called Syria one of the “most shameful chapters” in U.S. diplomatic history and said it was “disgraceful” that Obama was not doing more to aid the insurrection.

The contentious issue has also led to splits within the administration, with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta telling lawmakers during a hearing that he and then Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE had backed providing arms to rebels last year. That push, though, was overruled by the president. 

The report also comes as Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryChimamanda Ngozi Adichie becomes first African to deliver Yale graduation speech Dem Sen. Markey faces potential primary challenge in Massachusetts Judd Gregg: The dangers of the Bolton Doctrine MORE is in Europe this week, where he will attend a summit with members of the Syrian opposition to discuss efforts to bring a peaceful end to the civil war. 

Syrian opposition leaders had threatened to boycott this week’s summit, expressing frustration that Western powers were not doing enough to aid their fight. But the leaders agreed to sit down for multilateral talks after Kerry made public and private pleas asking them to join multilateral talks.

The Syrian regime on Monday also said that they would be open to peace talk with the rebels, but the Obama administration has questioned their sincerity and insisted that any agreement must be preconditioned on Assad leaving power.

"That future cannot include Bashar al-Assad, who has long since forsaken any opportunity he might have had to participate in Syria’s future,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday. “He has so much blood on his hands. He has been engaging in a prolonged assault on his own people that has cost tens of thousands of lives, of innocent civilian lives."