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Fact check: Obama, Romney disagree on heavy weapons in Syria

October 22, 2012|By Paul Richter
  • President Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as moderator Bob Schieffer looks on at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
President Obama debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

In their last debate together, President Obama focused on one of the few areas on Syria policy where he and Mitt Romney have a substantial difference: giving heavy weapons to opposition members.

Although the Obama administration has been helping Arab allies choose which opposition groups to give small arms to, it has opposed providing heavier anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, fearing they might fall into the hands of extremists.

But the former Massachusetts governor, in a major foreign policy speech two weeks ago, said he believed the United States should help the opposition obtain such weapons.

Obama challenged him on that, saying: “We can’t simply suggest that giving heavy weapons to the Syrians is a simple proposition that would lead us to be safer over the long term.”

But Romney defended that approach, saying his administration would be careful about which groups would receive the weapons. He hasn't specified which anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons he would want to provide, and whether they might include the shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft weapons called Stingers.

Both candidates made clear that they would oppose a deeper U.S. military involvement in Syria.

paul.richter@latimes.com

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