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Momentum weakened for Assad’s ouster in Syria

In this March 21, 2013 photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. Foes of Syrian President Bashar Assad are distracted by fragmentation within their ranks, foreign meddling and new finger-pointing over chemical weapons, with no sign that Assad plans to leave anytime soon. As the two-year civil war slogs on, the United States appears closer than ever to sending military support to Syrian rebels in hopes of breaking the bloody impasse that has left more than 70,000 dead and forced more than 1 million refugees to flee their homes. There is emerging consensus that the U.S. and its allies feel the need to move forward somehow. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In this March 21, 2013 photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. Foes of Syrian President Bashar Assad are distracted by fragmentation within their ranks, foreign meddling and new finger-pointing over chemical weapons, with no sign that Assad plans to leave anytime soon. As the two-year civil war slogs on, the United States appears closer than ever to sending military support to Syrian rebels in hopes of breaking the bloody impasse that has left more than 70,000 dead and forced more than 1 million refugees to flee their homes. There is emerging consensus that the U.S. and its allies feel the need to move forward somehow. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Foes of Syrian President Bashar Assad are distracted by fragmentation within their ranks, foreign meddling and new finger-pointing
over chemical weapons as
the regime more firmly entrenches itself, giving no sign of stepping down any time soon.

With the two-year civil war slogging on, the United States appears closer than ever to sending military support to Syrian rebels in hopes of breaking the bloody impasse that has left more than 70,000 dead and forced more than 1 million refugees to flee their homes. Beyond at least the threat of military intervention, there is growing consensus among the U.S. and its allies that little can be done to put new pressure on Assad to go.

New allegations this week – almost as quickly debunked – that chemical weapons may have been used against neighborhoods outside Damascus and in Syria’s north spooked the White House and Congress and ratcheted up demands for the U.S. to hamper what one Democratic lawmaker described as Assad’s “killing spree.”

On his first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama this week maintained his long-standing view that “Assad must go, and I believe he will go.” He repeated his caution about sending military assistance to Syrian opposition forces, which could prolong the fighting and unintentionally put U.S. weapons in the hands of Islamic extremists.

But Obama also held firm to his stance that Assad would cross a red line if he were to use his suspected stockpile of chemical weapons – including nerve agents and mustard gas – against the Syrian people.

“It’s tragic, it’s heartbreaking, and the sight of children and women being slaughtered that we’ve seen so much I think has to compel all of us to say, ‘What more can we do?’ ” Obama said Friday during a news conference in Amman, Jordan. “And that’s a question that I’m asking as president every single day.”

Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Paris on Wednesday to meet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius for talks expected to focus on arming Syrian rebels. The
discussion also is expected to touch on the suspected use
of chemical weapons in
Syria, according to French officials.

On Thursday, a U.S. official cited strong indications that chemical weapons were not used in an attack Tuesday in northern Aleppo province but could not rule out the possibility. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter involved intelligence-gathering.

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