Obama administration moves to aid Syrian opposition 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. Senators Urge Obama to Strike Assad's Forces
U.N. chief speaks of grisly reports from Syria BEIRUT/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received "grisly reports" that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in the battle-scarred city of Homs after rebel fighters had fled. Ban's comments came as a wounded British photographer, who escaped Homs earlier this week, said he had witnessed Syrian troops carrying out a massacre in the city's Baba Amro district, which had become a symbol of a year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Opposition activists told Reuters Syrian troops, who had bombarded the district for weeks, had started hunting down and killing insurgents who had stayed to cover a rebel retreat on Thursday.
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian forces renewed their bombardment of parts of the shattered city of Homs on Saturday and for a second day blocked Red Cross aid meant for civilians stranded without food and fuel in the former rebel stronghold, activists and aid workers said. The government assault came a day after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received "grisly reports" that President Bashar al-Assad's troops were executing and torturing people in the city after rebels abandoned their positions there. "In an act of pure revenge, Assad's army has been firing mortar rounds and ... machine guns since this morning at Jobar," said the Syrian Network for Human Rights, naming a district next to Baba Amro, where rebels held out against almost a month of siege and shelling before fleeing this week. "We have no immediate reports of casualties because of the difficulty of communications," the campaign group said in a statement. Syrian forces pound Homs again, block aid convoy