White House to Syrian Rebels: You're On Your Own

Syrian opposition official says Washington--not Moscow--is blocking a military intervention.

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The Obama administration has made clear in closed-door meetings that it will not take additional measures to aid Syrian rebels, even as Bashir al-Assad escalates an already bloody civil conflict.

Assad's military forces in recent days have massed tanks around key cities and fired into Turkey, allegedly killing two and injuring 21 Syrians trying to cross the border. A journalist also was reportedly killed by gunfire on the Syrian-Lebanese border.

[See pictures of the violence in Syria.]

All those moves came within days and hours of a Thursday morning cease-fire deadline negotiated by the United Nations.

"We're not getting one ounce of an impression that that's going to be the case," says Muna Jondy, a Syrian opposition official, when asked if the White House is preparing to get involved. "There just isn't an appetite to get involved right now. And I don't think that's going to be changing."

In private meetings with the Obama administration, opposition groups have urged U.S. officials to resist public remarks stating definitively that America will not get involved in the fighting.

"We say to them, 'Can you just not say that out loud,'" Jondy says. "Can't you at least say the Pentagon is drawing up some options?"

White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor listed in a statement to U.S. News & World Report the things the administration is doing about the bloody Syrian conflict. None even came close to providing heavy arms to the rebels or getting directly involved in the fighting.

"Our focus continues to be on pressing for an immediate cessation of violence by the regime, working to facilitate the unfettered access to those in need of humanitarian and relief supplies, enhancing our support for the opposition, and providing mechanisms for accountability for regime abuses," Vietor says. "In the meantime, we will continue to cut off the regime from its resources."

Such rhetoric might open the door for opposition forces, or at least lead Assad to tamp down the brutality. Under the U.N. deal, Assad's forces are to leave cities by Tuesday evening, and both sides are to stop fighting by 6 a.m. Thursday.

"Right now, he knows the world has said it is not going to do anything," Jondy says. "Assad knows that when the six o'clock deadline comes and goes, it's meaningless. What does 6:15 mean? What does 7 a.m. mean? Nothing."

She noted the Syrian strongman in recent months ignored a cease-fire plan fashioned by the African Union.

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The Obama administration and U.S. allies in the region have supplied opposition forces with humanitarian aid and some military hardware, such as satellite radios and other communications gear. But senior administration officials have said during public remarks and, sources say, in private sessions that they will not be providing rebel forces with weapons with which to fight Assad loyalists.

Administration officials for months have said adding more military firepower to the yearlong conflict--during which the U.N. contends 9,000 people have died--will only make things worse for opposition forces and Syrian citizens. They also say they remain unsure just who composes the opposition forces, and what kind of regime would follow an ousted Assad.

Even while satellite images show Assad is not pulling back his tanks, administration officials continue giving no indication they are prepared to step up the U.S. engagement there militarily--even if Assad ignores the Thursday cease-fire deadline.

To the dismay of opposition leaders, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday that Washington plans to "continue to use the U.N., where we believe it's going to be effective."

The U.S. and its allies have encountered turbulence using the United Nations before, with Russia and China blocking measures aimed at placing economic pressure on Assad.

But, in a twist, Washington--not Moscow nor Beijing--has proven a "big roadblock," Jondy says.

"Russia was a convenient thing for the U.S. to hide behind while it watched how things were playing out," says Jondy. "I just know when the [U.S.] government wants something to happen, the U.S. government makes that thing happen."