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If Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syria, should US arm rebels?

When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria, she might have ratcheted up the pressure not only on Russia, but on the US, too. 

In this file photo, Russian Mi-24 helicopter gunships kick up dust near the Chechen capital Grozny. Syria has received dozens of Soviet-built Mi-8 transport helicopters and Mi-24 helicopter gunships since the Cold War times, with the last deliveries taking place in the 1990s, and some of them require major repairs that can only be done by Russian repair plants.

Maxim Marmur/AP/File

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With her assertion this week that Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to use against his own people, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may have been out to increase pressure on Russia to drop its resistance to international action in the Syrian conflict.

But an unintended consequence has been to feed certain flames that Secretary Clinton herself and other officials have been trying to beat back – namely, that it is long past time for the United States to intervene to stop the Syrian bloodshed.

That view has been expressed by prominent hawks and even some liberal interventionists for months. But it got a boost Thursday when former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson said the US would have no choice but to start arming Syria’s rebels if indeed Russia is sending attack helicopters to President Assad’s forces.

“This is a humanitarian crisis going on in Syria,” Mr. Richardson, who is known for his diplomatic forays into North Korea, told Fox News Latino’s Juan Williams. “If the Russians get in there, and there’s evidence of that, I think that would be the defining step to move forward with arming the rebels.”


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