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The Obama administration is moving to provide direct assistance to the internal opposition in Syria for the first time, marking a shift in U.S. policy toward a more aggressive plan to help oust President Bashar al-Assad . Last week, a group of senior Obama administration officials met to finalize a package of options for aiding both the internal and external Syrian opposition, to include providing direct humanitarian and communications assistance to the Syrian opposition, two administration officials confirmed to The Cable. This meeting of what's known as the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council set forth a new and assertive strategy for expanding U.S. engagement with Syrian activists and providing them with the means to organize themselves, but stops short of providing any direct military assistance to the armed opposition.
Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement today urging the Obama administration to act on Syria. “[I]f requested by the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, the United States should help organize an international effort to protect civilian population centers in Syria through airstrikes on Assad’s forces," they write. "To be clear: This will first require the United States and our partners to suppress the Syrian regime’s air defenses in at least part of the country." The senators add: “The ultimate goal of airstrikes should be to protect civilian population centers from Assad’s killing machine and establish safe havens in which opposition forces can organize, rest, refit, and plan their political and military activities against Assad.