“We are evaluating now,” Kerry said at the State Department. “We’re taking a look at what steps, if any — diplomatic, particularly — might be able to be taken in an effort to try to reduce that violence and deal with the situation.”
Speaking with reporters a day before she left office last week, Clinton decried the spiral of death and desperation in Syria but said she felt she had done all she could “sitting where I sit.”
She declined an opportunity to say whether there was anything specific she wished had been done differently and sketched a grim picture of the future for Syria.
“The worst kind of predictions about what could happen internally and spilling over the borders of Syria are certainly within the realm of the possible now,” she said.
Asked about the likelihood of U.S. arms supplies to the rebels, however, Clinton said: “That decision has not been made.”
Clinton stressed caution about sending arms that could fall into the wrong hands. The administration has tacitly approved arms shipments by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while urging that the recipients be fully vetted.
“Sitting here today, I can’t tell you that we’ve been entirely successful in that,” Clinton said. “There are those who are supplying weapons and money for weapons, who really don’t care who gets it as long as they are against” Assad’s regime, Clinton said. Those nations “have the view that once Assad is gone, then we’ll deal with the consequences of these other groups who are now armed and funded. That’s not our view.”
Clinton was a chief advocate of a U.S. plan to empower Syrian opposition figures who commanded greater legitimacy inside the country, in hopes of giving Syrians a viable political alternative to Assad. She moved last year to confer U.S. bona fides on the new group, effectively usurping a group of expatriates who had laid early claim to the opposition mantle.
The political shift was intended to increase pressure on Syrian ally Russia, which is continuing to arm Assad’s army. But it appeared separate from any expansion of U.S. military involvement in the nearly two-year-old conflict and from the decisions of U.S. partners Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to ship heavier weapons to Syrian fighters.
U.S. allies and partners in Europe and the Middle East have been more willing to consider direct involvement in Syria but not without a sign from the United States that it is willing to put “skin in the game,” according to a senior Arab official.
“You have to be a full partner,” the official said. “If the United States begins to supply weapons, then everybody will line up behind them.”