The head of Syria's opposition National Coalition, Mouaz al-Khatib, speaking in Rome during the 'Friends of Syria' conference. Khatib expressed frustration at inadequate western aid. (Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli)

The United States joined 11 other nations Thursday in agreeing to "change the balance of power on the ground" in Syria. At a meeting in Rome of the so-called "Friends of Syria," Secretary of State John Kerry said the US would for the first time provide non-lethal aid directly to rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. "We do this because we need to stand on the side of those in this fight who want to see Syria rise again and see democracy and human rights," Kerry said. Amr al-Azm, a member of the Syrian opposition here in the US and a professor at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, says called the move "an escalation." The US has "finally come to the realization," says Azm, "that the only way to actually bring the regime to the negotiating table, to accepting a political resolution, is to actually degrade its military capability to the point where it sees no other option." But it may be too little, too late. "There's been a major, major shift in opinion (among Syrians)," says Azm, "against the United States and the west" because of the lack of aid up to now.

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