The White House said Friday that Syrian rebels should begin to receive shipments of U.S. arms within weeks, but cautioned that imposing a no-fly zone, as some have advocated, isn’t a “silver bullet” to ending the two-year-old civil war.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Obama, said the weapons will be “part of the continuum of assistance that we’ve provided” to the Syrian opposition, which is fighting to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Mr. Obama announced his decision Thursday to send arms after the U.S. said it had confirmed Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons to kill civilians.
“We don’t anticipate that this [delivery of arms] is something that is … far off into the future,” Mr. Rhodes said. “We believe that we can make a difference. This will improve [rebels’] capabilities.”
Some lawmakers and private analysts have called for the administration to impose the no-fly zone over Syria, but Mr. Obama has been opposed to sending U.S. forces directly into the conflict.
“In Syria, when you have a situation where regime forces are intermingled with opposition forces and they’re fighting in some instances block by block in cities, that’s not a problem you can solve from the air,” Mr. Rhodes said. “So I think people need to understand that the no-fly zone is not some type of silver bullet that is going to stop a very intense and, in some respect, sectarian conflict, that is taking place on the ground.”
In addition to evidence of chemical weapons use by the regime, the administration believes the situation has become more urgent because of increased involvement by Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Mr. Rhodes said.
“To us, there’s a bit of a sign of desperation involved,” he said. “Iran sees its only serious ally in the region significantly threatened.”