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US promises military aid to Syrian rebels. Now what?

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White House officials so far have declined to detail US military aid to the Syrian rebels, other than to clearly indicate that this does not include “boots on the ground.”

Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona and other lawmakers have been pushing Mr. Obama to institute a no-fly zone in Syria, something the rebels have urged as well.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Pentagon has proposed a partial no-fly zone, enforced from Jordanian territory to protect Syrian refugees and rebels who would train there.

“The military envisages creating a no-fly zone stretching up to 25 miles into Syria which would be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom, according to US officials,” The Wall Street Journal reported this week. “The US has already moved Patriot air defense batteries and F-16 fighter planes to Jordan, which could be integral to any no-fly zone if President Barack Obama approves the military proposal.”

“Proponents of the proposal say a no-fly zone could be imposed without a U.N. Security Council resolution, since the US would not regularly enter Syrian airspace and wouldn't hold Syrian territory,” according to this report.

But in a Monitor-hosted luncheon with reporters in April, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said a no-fly zone in Syria would be harder to achieve and maintain than it was in Libya. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said essentially the same thing during a news briefing Friday.

Weapons to Syrian rebels will be delivered by the CIA through clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

“US officials involved in the planning of the new policy of increased military support … said that the CIA has developed a clearer understanding of the composition of rebel forces, which have begun to coalesce in recent months,” the Post reported.

“We have relationships today in Syria that we didn’t have six months ago,” Mr. Rhodes said during the White House briefing Friday. The US is capable of delivering material “not only into the country,” Rhodes said, but “into the right hands.”

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