The Obama administration has preferred diplomacy in trying to end the civil war in Syria and has so far rejected demands that the United States become more militarily involved in the 19-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Attempts to broker an international strategy through the United Nations have been blocked by China and Russia, who support President Assad. American aid to poorly organized factions of Syrian rebels has been primarily humanitarian and nonlethal in nature out of fear that arms might end up in the hands of Islamic jihadists and other militants. The United States has not joined other countries, including France and Great Britain, that have recognized a rebel coalition formed with U.S. assistance as the leader of the Syrian people.
The only indication of a possible American military role came when President Obama drew a red line warning President Assad that the use of chemical weapons risked a U.S. response. However, that could change following rebel military successes in recent days that could break what has been a stalemate, the New York Times reported.
A NATO team is looking at potential sites for Patriot missiles supposedly to protect Turkey against possible Syrian attack, but the move could serve as a warning to Syrias air force not to get too close to the border in the air war against rebels and civilians. The administration is also considering whether to directly arm Syrian rebels to better control who receives the weapons.
The change is seen as improving U.S. credibility and putting it in position to have a more influential role in shaping a post-Assad Syria.
But there are risks of being drawn into the conflict. President Obama should stand firm in resisting calls for direct U.S. military intervention or troops on the ground.