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Syria – another sign that US needs to recalibrate Middle East policy

As the US backs into Syria and other Mideast crises, China is proactively and strategically engaging in the region. Its actions point out what America has to lose if it continues to hesitate in the Middle East.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry (l.) speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (r.) in Moscow May 7. The two pledged to convene an international conference about Syria's civil war, and the US is considering arming Syrian rebels. Op-ed contributor Kurt Shillinger writes: 'As welcome as these steps are, they are in another sense vaguely discomfiting. This should have happened much, much sooner.'

Mladen Antonov/Reuters

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Escalation of the Syrian civil war seems finally to be attracting more serious international attention. The United States and Russia have agreed to host an international summit on ending the war. Washington and other Western powers are meanwhile considering plans to arm the opposition. 

As welcome as these steps are, they are in another sense vaguely discomfiting. This should have happened much, much sooner. Delay has only made the task in Syria more complicated. Not only is the opposition more fragmented and radicalized, with jihadist elements more influential, the popular mood in the region is also decidedly against the US sending weapons to the rebels.

According to a new Pew Research poll released May 1, less than 33 percent of people in Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories back the US and other Western countries arming the Syrian rebels. Most of those surveyed in neighboring countries fear the conflict will spill into the region. Among Washington’s European allies, the poll found, support for arming the rebels is also low.

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