Three foreign policy experts urged the United States Wednesday to do more to bring the violence in Syria to an end.
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Martin Indyk, vice president and director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND National Defense Research Institute, and Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, all agreed that the United States should start arming the Syrian opposition under the right conditions.
"At this point, given the direction of the conflict, I think that what we need to do is assess which groups could we and should we arm at what point, and make that decision," Tabler told the senators. "I think that we're actually at that decision given where the conflict is going."
Indyk agreed, but advocated for intervening in a "wise way."
Amateur video reportedly from Aleppo, Syria, shows destruction in the city, a nighttime rebel rally along with the schoolyard execution of some pro-Assad military forces. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports. Editor's Note: This video contains graphic material which some viewers may find disturbing.
"We need to do it in a way that, first of all, we understand who we're supporting and what their intentions are," he said.
Dobbins echoed Tabler in saying that the time to make a decision on lethal aid to the opposition is now.
"The time has come to consider and pick those groups that are most consistent with our interest and our vision for the future and begin to advantage them in terms of the internal politics, by providing assistance, including perhaps money as well as arms and advice," he recommended.
For days the Syrian troops' weapons have given them the upper hand during key battles in Aleppo, but the rebels – now armed with powerful shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles -- are preparing for a different kind of fight. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
The experts also told the senators that the situation is going to worsen before it gets any better.
"The human suffering... is likely to increase, perhaps dramatically, and therefore what the United States does is not only important, but it is urgent," Indyk warned.
Dobbins raised the issue of al-Qaida taking advantage of the instability in Syria and said it should be a "real source of alarm."
"It would, for instance, be a great mistake to allow the leadership, the emerging leadership of Syria, to conclude that al-Qaida did more to help them prevail than did the United States," he said.
Tabler said he fears Washington's lack of support to the opposition will ultimately cause the government after Assad to be "suspicious and hostile" toward U.S. interests. "The reason is simple," he said. "Washington invested too much time in diplomacy at the United Nations instead of directly helping the Syrian people hasten Bashar al-Assad's demise."
Recent days have seen Syria's 16-month-old uprising transformed from an insurgency in remote provinces into a battle for control of the two main cities, Aleppo and the slightly smaller capital, Damascus, where fighting exploded last week.
Assad's forces have launched massive counter assaults in both cities.
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