WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a parting warning Thursday about Syria's civil war, accusing Iran of playing an increasingly prominent role in directing the violence, which she said heightened the danger of a larger regional conflict that draws in Israel or other neighbors.
"I've done what was possible to do," Clinton told reporters on the eve of her last day as secretary of state.
But she painted a harrowing picture of a war that could still get worse.
"The worst kind of predictions about what could happen internally and spilling over the borders of Syria are certainly within the realm of the possible now," she said.
The conflict "is distressing on all fronts," Clinton told a roundtable of journalists Thursday, a day before John Kerry is sworn in as her successor. She pointed the finger primarily at Iran, accusing it of dispatching more personnel and better military materiel to President Bashar Assad's regime to help him defeat rebel forces. Its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, is also playing a bigger role in the conflict.
Clinton stressed she in no way has softened her opposition to the United States providing weapons to Syrian rebels or intervening militarily.
The U.S. fears that if extremist groups get dangerous weapons, they could then use them against American interests or Israel.
She stressed that a political solution was necessary, and defended Syria's top opposition leader for suggesting this week that he'd be willing to negotiate with members of Assad's regime. The call provoked an outcry from rebels who insist that Assad must step down.
"I think I've done what was possible to do over the last two years in trying to create or help stand up an opposition that was credible and could be an interlocutor in any kind of political negotiation," Clinton said. "We've engaged in a steady drumbeat of activities and trying to put together a coalition and trying to find a way to get something through the Security Council that would serve as the international legal basis for further action to be taken by many countries."