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Syria civil war: This week could be decisive for US involvement

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“At some point he’ll push it a step further” and decide what to do, Mr. Miller says – perhaps choosing from a set of options administration officials are presenting that range from arming the rebels to establishing a no-fly zone over northern Syria.

But Obama is as keenly aware as anyone that there are no good options for resolving the Syrian crisis, says Miller, a former State Department adviser on Middle East issues with experience in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

“Whatever the US decides to do, it won’t be precipitous action” that somehow brings to an end, he says, a 2-year-old war that has left 76,000 Syrians dead and hardened internal divisions to the breaking point.

An ongoing debate in the administration over whether to intervene – and if so, in what manner – has shifted in recent weeks in favor of some form of intervention, some US officials say. At a Pentagon press conference last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US was in the process of “rethink[ing] all options.”

That shift, prompted in part by evidence that chemical weapons were used in the conflict, could accelerate, they add, if there are signs of a dangerous expansion of the war into a broader conflict.

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