US Secretly Backs Syria Opposition Groups, WikiLeaks Cables Show

Monday, 18 Apr 2011 09:55 AM

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The United States has been backing Syrian opposition groups secretly since the administration of President George W. Bush and continues to do so under President Barack Obama. The backing includes funneling millions to a satellite TV channel and dissidents inside the country, The Washington Post reported.

The revelations are revealed in newly released WikiLeaks cables. The cables show that as much as $6 million has gone to the London-based Syrian opposition broadcaster Barada TV since 2006. The funding began after Bush froze ties with Damascus in 2005 and has continued under Obama even as the administration has sought to rebuild relations with the government run by Bashar al-Assad, the Post reported.

The cables show that U.S. diplomats in Damascus had become worried that Syrian intelligence agents might be aware of U.S. involvement and suggested that the State Department reconsider, fearing the program could endanger the rebuilding efforts.

Syria “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,” read an April 2009 cable, the Post reported. “A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive.”

It is unclear whether funds are still going to opposition groups, but the cable said money was available through September 2010 and some was going to dissidents inside Syria. The Post said it is withholding certain names and program details at the request of the State Department, which said exposure could put people at risk.

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