Obama expected to weigh Syria military options

Obama has been at pains to avoid raising the possibility of a direct confrontation with Russia

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United States President Barack Obama and his top foreign policy advisers are expected to meet on Friday to consider their military and other options in Syria as Syrian and Russian aircraft continue to pummel Aleppo and other targets, US officials said.

Some top officials argue the US must act more forcefully in Syria or risk losing what influence it still has over moderate rebels and its Arab, Kurdish and Turkish allies in the fight against ISIS, the officials told Reuters.

One set of options includes direct US military action such as air strikes on Syrian military bases, munitions depots or radar and anti-aircraft bases, said one official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

This official said one danger of such action is that Russian and Syrian forces are often co-mingled, raising the possibility of a direct confrontation with Russia that Obama has been at pains to avoid.

US officials said they consider it unlikely that Obama will order US air strikes on Syrian government targets, and they stressed that he may not make any decisions at the planned meeting of his National Security Council.

One alternative, US officials said, is allowing allies to provide US-vetted rebels with more sophisticated weapons, although not shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, which Washington fears could be used against Western airliners.

Friday’s planned meeting is the latest in a long series of internal debates about what, if anything, to do to end more than five years of civil war that has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced half the country’s population.

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