Tags: Syria | rebels | aid | blocked

Congressional Panels Restricting Aid to Syrian Opposition

Image: Congressional Panels Restricting Aid to Syrian Opposition

Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013 11:10 AM

By Lisa Barron

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are blocking U.S. aid to Syrian rebels by restricting funds, according to The Hill.

A member of the Senate panel told the publication on Tuesday that the committee "voted to allow them to make some movement on this, but it's restricted," adding, "It was a very restrictive amount."

The move is creating a potential impasse over the administration's plans to support opposition forces in Syria.

"They're raising a lot of questions without having alternative answers," one senior official said of the effort by lawmakers to restrict funding.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden both briefed the intelligence panels last month about President Barack Obama's plans in Syria after the White House announced it would begin providing arms to the rebels.

But legislators in both parties are concerned about U.S. weapons being used by the terrorist groups that have infiltrated rebel forces.

"If we are going to arm, we have to make sure we have control of what arms are out there and how people are trained to use those arms so they don't fall into the hands of our enemy al-Qaida," Maryland Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a member of the House panel, told The Hill.

"It's not clear to me that the administration has a workable policy," said Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Meanwhile, members of other House and Senate committees are concerned that they are being left out of the decision-making.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, accused the administration Tuesday of formulating its policy toward Syria behind Congress' back.
"They should come and talk about this openly," he told reporters, adding: "It puts the Intelligence Committee in a very awkward place. All of a sudden, they own it."

The intensified debate over arming the Syrian opposition — a decision made by the White House after it determined that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime had used chemical weapons — comes as new evidence suggests the rebels also may have used nerve gas.

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