Hagel says U.S. considering arming rebels

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that the U.S. was rethinking its opposition to arming Syria’s rebels, the first on-record acknowledgement by a senior Obama administration official that the president was considering that course.  "So you are rethinking — the administration is rethinking its opposition to arming the rebels?" asked CNN’s Barbara Starr, in ...

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that the U.S. was rethinking its opposition to arming Syria's rebels, the first on-record acknowledgement by a senior Obama administration official that the president was considering that course. 

"So you are rethinking -- the administration is rethinking its opposition to arming the rebels?" asked CNN's Barbara Starr, in a Pentagon press conference with Hagel and British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond. 

"Yes," Hagel said, while stating repeatedly that the U.S. was rethinking all of its options.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that the U.S. was rethinking its opposition to arming Syria’s rebels, the first on-record acknowledgement by a senior Obama administration official that the president was considering that course. 

"So you are rethinking — the administration is rethinking its opposition to arming the rebels?" asked CNN’s Barbara Starr, in a Pentagon press conference with Hagel and British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond. 

"Yes," Hagel said, while stating repeatedly that the U.S. was rethinking all of its options.

The administration has revealed its deliberations over whether to arm Syria’s rebels cautiously. Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey has said publicly for months he did not see a "good" military option in Syria, including arming rebels whose ranks include anti-Western terrorists. But he has also said that if the identity of some rebels can be verified he would support arming them.

"We have a responsibility, and I think Gen. Dempsey would say the same thing, to continue to evaluate options," Hagel said. "That doesn’t mean that the president has decided on anything."

Hammond stressed the decision also depends on establishing international legal authority to act on evidence of chemical weapons use.

Hagel would not reveal if he favors arming the rebels and said he has not come to a conclusion on the question.

"We are exploring all options," he said.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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