Meeting in Rome with the so-called Friends of Syria -- fellow NATO powers and the reactionary Sunni monarchies of the Gulf states -- Washington's new secretary of state, John Kerry, announced on Monday that for the first time the US will begin funneling "non-lethal" aid directly to the armed militias seeking the overthrow of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
On its face, the new aid fell short of impressive. US officials spoke of providing the so-called Free Syrian Army with medical supplies and the US military's Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) field rations. In addition, Washington has announced it is providing an additional $60 million in "humanitarian aid" to areas held by the Western-backed rebels.
Kerry indicated, however, that these public acts to assist the anti-regime militias were merely the tip of the iceberg. "We're doing this, but other countries are doing other things," Kerry explained.
While not going into detail, the meaning was clear to anyone following the civil war in Syria. In recent months, more advanced weaponry has poured across the country's borders, paid for by Washington's key Arab allies, the monarchical dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and covertly organized by the CIA.
Meanwhile, the European powers are discussing proposals to stretch the definition of "non-lethal" assistance to include military equipment ranging from body armor and night-vision goggles to armored vehicles, all of which will be used to sharply escalate the lethality of the Syrian conflict.