The United States is taking a fresh look at whether to provide weapons to Syria’s rebels after having rejected the idea previously, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
At a news conference with his British counterpart Philip Hammond, Hagel was asked if the US government was rethinking its opposition to arming the rebels and replied: “Yes.”
But the Pentagon chief added that no decision had been reached and declined to say if he favored arming the opposition.
“I’m in favor of exploring options and seeing what is the best option in coordination with our international partners,” he said.
After the White House acknowledged last week that US intelligence agencies believe the Syrian regime may have used chemical weapons on a small-scale, speculation has mounted that President Barack Obama could reverse his opposition to arming the rebels.
At the same press conference, Hammond said Britain had not ruled out arming the rebels or other military options but that his government had to abide by a European Union prohibition on sending weapons to the opposition.
“Certainly in our case, for the UK, we have been subject to an EU ban on supplying armaments to the rebels,” Hammond said.
“We will look at the situation when that ban expires in a few weeks’ time. We will continue to keep that situation under review.
“But we will do what we are able to do within the bounds of legality, and we regard that as very important.”