White House is nonspecific on aiding Syrian rebels

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WASHINGTON -- White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday that "the scope and scale" of assistance to Syrian rebels will expand, based on evidence that the Assad government is gaining ground in the protracted civil war and that it may have used chemical weapons in the conflict.

Mr. McDonough did not say whether arms shipments to Syrian rebels would include artillery and other heavy weapons that could help reduce the military regime's advantage. In the shadow of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has to tread carefully, Mr. McDonough said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"We have to be very discerning about what's in our interest and what outcome is best for us, and the prices that we're willing to pay to get to that place," he said. "We've rushed to war in this region in the past; we're not going to do it here."

Republicans such as Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, faulted the administration for not providing the kind of detailed plan needed to get congressional approval for the military aid to Syria.

"The administration needs to come up to Congress and make a comprehensive case. What is the plan? Where are we going on Syria? And what do you want to accomplish?," Mr. Rogers said on "Face the Nation," after Mr. McDonough spoke.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," said that the Obama administration's decision to arm the Syrian opposition may have come too late in the 2-year civil war against President Bashar Assad.

"You had an opportunity earlier to provide support without having to get American forces directly involved," Mr. Cheney said. "And they took a pass. Now they are going to do it, but the question is whether or not they are a day late and a dollar short."

The Republican Mr. Cheney said he doesn't think Democratic President Barack Obama has handled the "complex, difficult situation" in Syria very well considering that it has taken the use of chemical weapons to spur the White House to provide weapons to Mr. Assad's opposition.

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Bloomberg News contributed.


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