Speed Reads

foreign affairs

Obama hasn't given up on Syria's rebels


Syria's civil war doesn't appear to be going all that well for the rebel forces trying to defeat President Bashar al-Assad. After three years of conflict, and an estimated 160,000 deaths, Assad's forces appear to be gaining ground, or at least not losing it. The U.S. has been aiding some of the rebels for months now, and on Wednesday, President Obama said he "will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators."

In Wednesday's foreign policy speech at West Point, Obama also reiterated that "we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian war." But in briefing reporters after the speech, an unidentified senior administration official said that the White House wants to have a "discussion with Congress about the potential for there to be a role for the U.S. military" in assisting "the vetted Syrian opposition." ("We're not talking about activities within Syria by the United States military," the official later clarified.)

The U.S. has already been providing military aid to the rebels. But how do you vet militants in the middle of a civil war? PBS's Frontline tackled that exact topic on Tuesday night, with journalist Muhammad Ali providing a rare look at U.S. efforts to screen and train a relatively moderate rebel army. --Peter Weber