Kerry: Year 'Wasted' Trying to Stop Syria's Assad

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 07:40 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Secretary of State John Kerry told a visiting delegation of Syrian opposition leaders that an entire year had been "wasted" because countries opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad had been unable to coordinate their efforts, the Daily Beast reported.

The leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Ahmad Jarba, has been in Washington to lobby for anti-aircraft weapons for use against the government. The coalition includes an armed wing, the predominantly Sunni Free Syrian Army.

The Free Syrian Army is fighting Assad's Alawite regime and its Shiite backers Hezbollah and Iran, as well as Sunni extremists aligned with al-Qaida. Jarba's forces have recently suffered several military setbacks against the regime.

The U.S. has permitted the coalition, which it holds to be a "moderate"  movement, to establish a foreign mission in Washington. It has not, however, recognized it as Syria's government in exile, Asharq Al Awsat reported.

The U.S. has provided vast amounts of non-lethal aid and, more sparingly, some weaponry . American officials are worried that U.S.-supplied arms could fall into al-Qaida hands. A pilot program, in which U.S.-supplied FSA TOW anti-tank missiles has been provided to the Free Syrian Army, is being evaluated to see if any of the weapons have found their way to al-Qaida, according to the Daily Beast.

Jarba, who has close ties with Saudi Arabia, reiterated his request for anti-aircraft weapons in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "Our mission is to convince the U.S. to give us those weapons, or to convince them to allow our friends to provide us with those weapons." He added, "If and when one day we were able to bring down 10 helicopters, the regime would have a different calculation, it would think twice before continuing to send in the Air Force."

He also said that having anti-aircraft missiles would obviate the need for a no-fly zone. And he placed the onus for his movement's success on Washington: "There's a Syrian saying that you can't hide the sun with a screen, and you can't hide the fact that the United States is the one that can decide when this war ends, and we hope that the United States will put an end to this," he told the Daily Beast.

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