Tags: Syria | obama | syrian | rebels | aid

Report: US Still Hasn't Armed Syrian Rebels

Monday, 02 Sep 2013 10:57 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Three months after the Obama administration authorized the CIA to provide small arms to the Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad's military, they have yet to receive them.


Because the White House "doesn't want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear the outcome may be even worse for U.S. interests than the current stalemate," The Wall Street Journal.

In other words, according to the Journal, the Obama administration "wants to strengthen the opposition but doesn't want it to prevail," according to individuals who attended closed-door briefings by top White House officials over the past week.

"The administration doesn't want U.S. airstrikes, for example, tipping the balance of the conflict because it fears Islamists will fill the void if the Assad regime falls," the Journal reports, citing those who have attended the briefings, including lawmakers and their aides.

President Barack Obama has said that the U.S. has evidence that Assad's forces used sarin gas in attacks on the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21.

More than 1,400 people were killed, the White House said, many of them children.

"The big concern is the wrong groups in the opposition would be able to take advantage of it," a senior military officer told the Journal, referring to the airstrikes.

Pentagon officials were instructed by the White House to not offer strike options that could help drive Assad from power, the Journal reports.

The CIA declined to comment to the Journal.

Meanwhile, the Journal reports that the authorized arms have not yet arrived because U.S. officials cited the difficulty in establishing secure delivery "pipelines" to prevent the weapons from falling into the wrong hands, in particular Jihadists also battling the Assad regime.

But allied rebel commanders in Syria and congressional proponents of a more aggressive military response instead blame the White House for wanting to be seen as being responsive to allies' needs, though fundamentally not wanting to get pulled any deeper into the country's bloody civil war.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona told the Journal on Monday that it was "shameful" that the promised U.S. arms had not materialized, given recent shipments of advanced weapons from Russia and Iran in support of Assad.

McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, both of whom sit on Armed Services Committee, met privately with President Obama to discuss Syria.

Further, these issues are expected to be discussed beginning on Tuesday during the Capitol Hill hearings on the proposed airstrikes, the U.S. officials told the Journal.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry are among those scheduled to testify.

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