Syrian Opposition Groups Pleading for Outside Assistance

Syrian groups seek help, but violence could mean only a military-led aid effort would work.

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Syrian opposition groups are lobbying the United States and other nations to set up a sweeping effort in order to get humanitarian aid into the violence-ravaged nation. Those escalating calls come as a senior U.S. senator said the Pentagon is crafting plans to get involved.

[See photos of the crackdown in Syria.]

Sensing a "broad international consensus" that civil unrest inside Syria is preventing food and medical supplies from getting to those who need it, opposition groups are stepping up efforts to get help.

"Food and medicine can't get into cities where there is heavy fighting. We're trying to get nations together and establish a humanitarian corridor to get food and medical supplies to the people who need it," Bassel Korkor, head of government relations for United for a Free Syria, told U.S. News & World Report. "We see this as a humanitarian effort."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman said during a television interview Sunday that the Pentagon is drawing up plans for some kind of intervention in Syria.

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"The encouraging news is the Pentagon is putting together plans to make that happen if the president decides to order it," Lieberman said on CNN. But the hawkish senator said he would oppose U.S. boots on the ground inside Syria. A Pentagon spokesman had yet to respond to an inquiry about just what the Defense Department is planning.

Lieberman drew a line back to Libya, where President Obama and other Western leaders said they opted to intervene militarily due to humanitarian reasons. The senator said those same kinds of reasons should compel the U.S. to act in Syria.

"We went into Libya for humanitarian [and] moral reasons," Lieberman said. He also cast the situation as part of the simmering tensions between Washington and Tehran.

"Iran is the greatest threat to security in the Middle East and in the world today. … Iran's only ally in the Arab world is Syria."

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Korkor said some inside Syria have told his organization that fighting between rebels and regime forces has gotten so intense that only a military-led humanitarian effort would work.

"If a military effort is needed, we recognize it wouldn't an invasion or air strikes," he said. "We're not [seeking] offensive military action."

United for a Free Syria and other opposition groups pointed to the U.S., Europe, Arab League nations and Turkey as potentially composing a humanitarian force. Korkor also said he believes "that other nations on the border of Syria" would participate, fearing an influx of refugees spilling onto their soil if supplies cannot be moved into major Syrian cities.

Sens. Bob Casey and Marco Rubio have introduced a resolution denouncing the Assad regime and calling on the Obama administration to work with Turkey, the European Union and the Arab League on the issue.

It is so far unclear whether there are ample votes in the Senate to pass a Syria resolution. Other than Lieberman, Casey and Rubio, only GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have been substantially vocal about U.S. military intervention in Syria.

  • Read the Casey-Rubio resolution.
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