Faith in Syria's rebel army moves President Obama a step closer to giving arms

President seeks proof of how chemical weapons were used in Syria before taking major decision

New York

The Obama administration is reported to be considering supplying lethal weapons to the Syrian rebel forces.

The US has thus far held back from supplying military hardware to the rebels for fear that they could end up in the hands of radical groups. But recent contacts with the Syrian opposition have made the White House more confident about certain rebel factions, and preliminary evidence of the use of chemical weapons inside the country have reportedly led Washington to consider changing its policy.

While it remains unclear what kind of equipment the US might provide, President Barack Obama is likely to make a decision on supplying arms ahead of a June meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a key supporter of the Assad regime, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The suggestion of a shift in US policy came as President Bashar al-Assad visited a Damascus power station, a rare public appearance that came just a day after the Syrian capital was rocked by a bomb. The Associated Press said that at least 14 people were killed in the explosion – the second devastating explosion to hit central Damascus in as many days.

In Washington the growing violence is pressuring the government into considering policy changes that would see it play a more active role in the conflict. Supplying arms would bring the US in line with allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But the Obama administration remains cautious and continues to pursue diplomatic avenues, with the country’s top diplomat,  Secretary of State John Kerry, due to travel to Moscow early next week as the Americans look to bring the Russian government on to their side. Mr Kerry is expected to meet both his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and President Putin.

Evidence of chemical weapons use is likely to be a key plank of the case that the US makes to the Russians in order to convince them to withdraw their support for the Syrian government. Although the American officials have been cautious about blaming the Assad regime for using such weapons, it is known to have stockpiled chemical arms. Speaking at the White House earlier this week, President Obama said that “if we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in the position where we can’t mobilise the international community to support what we do.

“What we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don’t know how they were used, when they were used, [or] who used them. We don’t have chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened,” he said, adding that he had to make sure that he had all the facts before considering “the potential for taking additional action in response.”

“If I can establish, in a way that [makes] the United States [and] the international community feel confident,  the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, then that is a game-changer,” the President said, citing the possibility then of “even more devastating attacks on civilians” and the risk of those weapons falling into the wrong hands.

Despite the caveats, a senior US official told The Washington Post that “we’re clearly on an upward trajectory. We’ve moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose.”

Hezbollah leader vows to stop rebel forces taking over Syria

The Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has said that Syria’s allies in the region and the world would not allow it to fall “into the hands of Americans, Israel and [Sunni] extremists”.

Mr Nasrallah, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad, said in a televised speech from an undisclosed location that Syrian rebels fighting the regime’s forces would not be able to topple him using force.

“The battle is long … We tell you [Syrian rebels] that you will not be able to bring this regime down through military means,” he said.

Rebels have long accused Hezbollah of fighting alongside Mr Assad’s forces. The group has formally denied this, and said it was only fighting to protect Shia villages along the border with Lebanon. However on Tuesday Mr Nasrallah admitted that Hezbollah fighters had been killed in Syria. But reports of the death toll were “exaggerated”, he added.

He also left the door open to greater participation in the conflict “if the situation escalates more”.

Fighting between Hezbollah-backed Shia militants and Syrian rebels has raged in border villages in recent weeks, threatening to drag Lebanon into the conflict. The border area is a key supply line for the rebels, making it important for Hezbollah to stop them taking over Shia villages there that would bring them close to Hermel, one of the group’s strongholds.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz