The United Nations revised its death toll in the Syrian civil war
sharply upward to at least 93,000 Thursday, lending new urgency to
Obama administration discussions this week of US options in the
The UN's new official figure of 93,000 deaths as of the end of
April suggests that at least 5,000 fighters and civilians - among
them many children - are dying in the war in Syria each month. The
new figure is more than 30,000 higher than the last official figure
issued in November.
In announcing the figures, the UN commissioner for human rights,
Navi Pillay, said indications that the Assad regime is preparing a
major offensive to try to retake the northern city of Aleppo could
portend another sharp increase in casualties.
Reports of a coming Aleppo offensive have prompted opposition
leaders to warn supporters in the West that it may be now or never
to help rebel fighters, who already face arms and ammunition
shortages and who are increasingly outgunned by forces loyal to
President Bashar al-Assad. The Assad regime is widely considered to
have regained the upper hand in the war in recent weeks, especially
as Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters have joined the battle on Mr.
Reports of a looming offensive on Aleppo, Syria's largest city,
are also hanging over this week's White House meetings on Syria.
President Obama gathered his national security team Wednesday for
discussions that were to include options for "rebalancing" the war's
momentum, which range from arming the rebels to establishing a no-
fly zone to protect rebels and civilians from Assad's increased use
of aerial bombardments.
Obama administration officials continue to insist that the US is
determined to help the rebels, but there were no indications that
Wednesday's meeting produced any decisions.
"We are determined to do everything that we can in order to help
the opposition," Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday, after
meeting with his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William
Hague. Noting that Assad is using weapons and tactics against his
own people that "challenge anybody's values and standards of human
behavior," Mr. Kerry said the US is "going to have to make judgments
... about how we can help the opposition to deal with that."
At the same time, however, White House spokesman Jay Carney
cautioned against expectations of quick decisions from the president
on what to do next to help the rebels. The White House continues to
worry that US-provided arms - especially the anti-tank and anti-
aircraft weapons the rebels seek - could fall into the hands of the
Islamist extremist groups who are also fighting Assad. …