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White House Stresses Reluctance on Syria Force Options

Demonstrators in Damascus rally on Wednesday in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. The White House on Tuesday suggested it remains hesitant to employ force in Syria's civil war, despite slow progress in efforts to address the conflict through diplomacy. Demonstrators in Damascus rally on Wednesday in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. The White House on Tuesday suggested it remains hesitant to employ force in Syria's civil war, despite slow progress in efforts to address the conflict through diplomacy. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House has indicated that President Obama is hesitant to employ force in Syria, though his national security team is newly weighing action.

"We have to examine ... whether a desire to do something about [the Syrian civil war] could lead us, the United States, to take action that can produce the kind of unintended consequences we've seen in the past," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday. Carney appeared to be referencing the president's hope to avoid becoming involved in a new war, but the spokesman provided no details, Reuters reported.

U.S. government personnel said offices across Obama's administration would assess steps that Washington could take to address the bloody conflict, though the review had yet to formally begin. More than 100,000 people have died in the Syrian war since it began nearly three years ago.

The new assessment of possible actions could extend for up to several weeks, according to U.S. government insiders. Plans for the U.S. review went public as recent peace negotiations appeared to lose momentum, and following media reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad is on track to miss a mid-year international deadline for the destruction of his chemical-weapons stockpile.

The administration raised the possibility of employing direct military force against Syria's government last year, after sarin nerve gas killed hundreds of noncombatants in rebel-held territory outside Damascus. Discussion of any imminent intervention receded, though, after Assad's regime admitted possessing chemical arms and agreed to relinquish them.

One possible step -- giving portable anti-air interceptors to Assad's opponents -- remains formally off the table in the United States, a high-level U.S. insider told Reuters on Tuesday. The official was denying a news report that Obama officials had grown amenable to potentially supplying Syrian resistance forces with man-portable air-defense systems.

"The administration remains opposed to any provision of MANPADS to the Syrian opposition," the source stated.

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