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Pentagon backed arming Syria rebels

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told lawmakers that the Pentagon originally recommended arming Syria's rebels.

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A hearing on Thursday revealed that US defense leaders backed arming Syrian rebels in the past. The Obama administration decided against their recommendations and agreed to provide only non-lethal aid. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

US defense chiefs told Congress Thursday they backed the possibility of arming Syrian rebels.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers they recommended arming Syria's rebels.

President Obama ultimately decided against the move, said Reuters, instead providing non-lethal aid to rebels.

It is believed that anti-government rebels are being armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

More from GlobalPost: Syria: Fighting intensifies in Damascus

At a hearing in Congress Thursday, Republican Sen. John McCain asked Pentagon leaders: "How many more have to die before you recommend military action?"

The Telegraph reported that McCain pressed the leaders on the issue asking: "Did you support the recommendation by then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-head of CIA General Petraeus that we supply weapons to the resistance in Syria?"

The Pentagon leaders said they had supported the idea but reiterated that they now backed the President's decision.

"Obviously there were a number of factors that were involved here that ultimately led to the president's decision to make (the aid) non-lethal," said Panetta, reported Reuters.

The CIA also supported the decision to arm Syrian rebels.

It is believed that 80,000 people have died during Syria's nearly two-year civil war.

Other reports put that number closer to 60,000.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130207/pentagon-backed-arming-syria-rebels