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POLITICS: PennAve

Poll: Vast majority of Americans oppose arming Syrian rebels

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Beltway Confidential,Steve Contorno,Polls,Syria,PennAve

Public opposition to arming Syrian rebels has grown even as President Obama indicated last week the administration is planning military assistance to some groups fighting President Bashar Assad's government.

A Pew Research Center poll released Monday showed that a whopping 70 percent of Americans are against the U.S. and its allies arming rebel forces fighting in the two-year civil war. Just one in five support it, down from March 2012, when 29 percent favored the U.S. arming rebels.

Obama is meeting in Northern Ireland with the G-8 world powers this week, where the Syrian conflict is expected to figure prominently in President Obama's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The U.S. and other western powers want Putin to withdraw his support for Assad, but the Russian leader has so far balked at that prospect.

The White House said last week that it will arm some rebel groups with light weapontry after U.S. intelligence reports confirmed that Assad had used chemical weapons repeatedly against the rebels, crossing the "red line" Obama set.

Opposition to arming the rebels cuts across party lines. Seventy-one percent of Republicans and 66 percent of Democrats oppose it. Just under 70 percent in both parties think the U.S. is already overly involved in the foreign conflict and a majority believes it's likely the rebel groups are no better than the Assad regime.

Even those who expressed interest in arming the rebels believe American troops are spread too thin. Of the 20 percent that supported providing arms, 56 perecnt think the U.S. is too overcommitted elsewhere in the world to get involved in the conflict directly.

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