Global Politics

The Debate Over Intervening in Syria

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Animal carcasses lie on the ground, killed by what residents said was a chemical weapon attack in northern Syria in April. (Photo: REUTERS/George Ourfalian)

Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, said on Thursday that the Obama administration is re-thinking its opposition to arming rebels fighting the Syrian government.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

Last week, the US administration said chemical weapons had been used in Syria, but this week President Obama said there's not enough evidence who used them.

Thursday Secretary Hagel said the administration is considering a range of options, but he has not decided personally if it would be wise to provide weapons to the rebels.

"This could be a game-changer," says Amr Al-Azm, of the notion of providing weapons to the rebels. Azm is a professor at Shawnee State University and a member of the Syrian opposition based here in the US.

"I believe there's a final realization here," says Azm, "that they need to change the balance of power on the ground in order to actually bring a change in the behavior of the regime viz a viz negotiations. The regime has basically up to now, in its own calculus, seen no reason to enter into serious negotiations."

Rim Turkmani disagees.

She's a member of a Syrian opposition group called Building the Syrian State, and when she's not campaigning on behalf of her country, she teaches astrophysics at Imperial College, London.

Turkmani says arming the rebels "has been tried for a year-and-a-half and it didn't work in bringing the regime any closer to the negotiating table."

She's referring to the arms supplied by regional powers like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

She says the Syrian government army remains very strong, and "by giving the rebels more arms … we're just pushing them to their deaths. There has to be a political resolution."

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