Quantcast

Wednesday, July 30, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 15 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Obama steps up military aid to Syrian rebels

By JULIE PACE and LOLITA C. BALDOR

Associated Press

POSTED:



WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's decision to authorize lethal aid to Syrian rebels marks a deepening of U.S. involvement in the two-year civil war. But U.S. officials are still grappling with what type and how much weaponry to send the opposition forces and how to ensure it stays out of the hands of extremists battling for control of Syria.

U.S. officials confirmed Obama's authorization Thursday after the White House announced it had conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime used chemical weapons against opposition forces. Obama has said the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line," suggesting greater American intervention.

While a small percentage of the 93,000 people reportedly killed in Syria are said to have died from chemical weapons — U.S. intelligence puts the number at 100 to 150 — the White House views the deployment of the deadly agents as a flouting of international norms. Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said the multiple chemical weapons attacks gave greater urgency to the situation.

"Suffice it to say this is going to be different in both scope and scale in terms of what we are providing," Rhodes said of the ramped-up U.S. response. But he added that the U.S. would make specific determinations "on our own timeline."

The Obama administration could give the rebels a range of weapons, including small arms, assault rifles, shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other anti-tank missiles. The opposition forces could operate most of that equipment without significant training.

Obama's opposition to sending American troops into Syria makes it less likely the U.S. will provide sophisticated arms or anti-aircraft weapons that would require large-scale training. Administration officials are also worried about high-powered weapons ending up in the hands of terrorist groups. Hezbollah fighters are among those backing Assad's armed forces, and al-Qaida-linked extremists back the rebellion.

The CIA and special operations trainers are already running some weapons training programs for the rebels and are expected to take charge of teaching the opposition how to use the weapons the U.S. has agreed to supply, another U.S. official said.

There is also some debate within the administration about who would provide the lethal aid and how it might be delivered, the U.S. officials said.

All the officials insisted on anonymity to discuss internal administration discussions.

Obama has resisted arming the rebels until now, a cautious approach that underscores the deep divisions within his administration. The proponents of more aggressive action, including Secretary of State John Kerry, appeared to have won out over those wary of sending weapons and ammunition into the war zone.

The U.S. has made no decision on operating a no-fly zone over Syria, Rhodes said.

The U.S. has so far provided the Syrian rebel army with rations and medical supplies. The administration has also agreed in principle to provide body armor and other equipment such as night-vision goggles to the rebels, although the Pentagon has said there has been no movement on that as yet.

Word of the stepped-up assistance followed new U.S. intelligence assessments showing that Assad has used chemical weapons, including sarin, on a small scale multiple times in the last year, killing an estimated 100 to 150 people.

Obama advisers believe Assad's regime still maintains control of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles and does not see any evidence that rebel forces have launched attacks using the deadly agents.

The administration announced in April that it had "varying degrees of confidence" that sarin had been used in Syria. But they said at the time that they had not been able to determine who was responsible for deploying the gas.

The more conclusive findings announced Thursday were aided by evidence sent to the United States by France, which, along with Britain, has announced it had determined that Assad's government had used chemical weapons.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday, "The international community has made clear that any use of chemical weapons is completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law."

He said he welcomes the "clear U.S. statement" and called on Syria to "grant access to the United Nations to investigate all reports of chemical weapons use."

Obama has said repeatedly that the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" and constitute a "game changer" for U.S. policy on Syria, which until now has focused entirely on providing the opposition with nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

The White House said it had notified Congress, the United Nations and key international allies about the new U.S. chemical weapons determination. Obama will discuss the assessments, along with broader problems in Syria, during the summit of eight leading industrial nations next week in Northern Ireland.

Among those in attendance will be Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Assad's most powerful backers. Obama and Putin will hold a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of the summit, and the U.S. leader is expected to press his Russian counterpart to drop his political and military support for the Syrian government.

But Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Friday that Moscow had doubts about Washington's claim Assad had used chemical weapons against the opposition.

He told reporters the information provided by U.S. officials to Russia "didn't look convincing."

The Syrian fighters have been clamoring for bolder Western intervention, particularly given the estimated 5,000 Hezbollah guerrillas propping up Assad's forces. Assad's stunning military success last week at Qusair, near the Lebanese border, and preparations for offensives against Homs and Aleppo have made the matter more urgent.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he supported the president's decision "to expand assistance for the vetted Syrian opposition." But other lawmakers expressed reservations, including Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

———

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Kimberly Dozier, Donna Cassata, Andrew Taylor in Washington and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.






 Print   Email   Comment | View 15 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

COMMENTS
(15)
You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
realist3463 wrote:
We have little to no strategic interest in Syria. Yes, it would be nice to deny Russia their warm water port in the Med. Yes, it would be nice to undermine the Iranian influence in the region. Yes, it would be VERY nice to undercut the support to Lebanese Hezbollah in Lebanon. But, these are all nice to haves. The opposition forces in Syria are not friends of the US. They will not be supportive of our strategic interests. As we saw in Libya, you need to be careful what you wish for. We took a corrupt but mostly stable country and created a festering, vast, ungoverned territory with little hope for the future. The costs of upending Libya are only now beginning to be understood. So, from my viewpoint, Syrian instability with Assad in power is far better than the mass chaos that will erupt if he is deposed. And where will all that CBR material go in the days following the Alawite collapse? And are we going to step in between the Sunni and the Alawites to keep the Sunnis from "squaring the account" that began back when the French helped the Alawites gain power. We are only beginning to see the atrocities on the ground in Syria. Putting young American men and women into that cauldron will only result in US kids going home in boxes. We've seen enough of that already...the Syrians have to find their own way into the future and our politicians need to butt out.
on June 14,2013 | 03:04AM
realist3463 wrote:
We have little to no strategic interest in Syria. Yes, it would be nice to deny Russia their warm water port in the Med. Yes, it would be nice to undermine the Iranian influence in the region. Yes, it would be VERY nice to undercut the support to Lebanese Hezbollah in Lebanon. But, these are all nice to haves. The opposition forces in Syria are not friends of the US. They will not be supportive of our strategic interests. As we saw in Libya, you need to be careful what you wish for. We took a corrupt but mostly stable country and created a festering, vast, ungoverned territory with little hope for the future. The costs of upending Libya are only now beginning to be understood. So, from my viewpoint, Syrian instability with Assad in power is far better than the mass chaos that will erupt if he is deposed. And where will all that CBR material go in the days following the Alawite collapse? And are we going to step in between the Sunni and the Alawites to keep the Sunnis from "squaring the account" that began back when the French helped the Alawites gain power. We are only beginning to see the atrocities on the ground in Syria. Putting young American men and women into that cauldron will only result in US kids going home in boxes. We've seen enough of that already...the Syrians have to find their own way into the future without our "help".
on June 14,2013 | 03:40AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Probably correct.
on June 14,2013 | 07:23AM
HD36 wrote:
The big picture is to preserve the status of the dollar as the world's reserve currency using the petro dollar. For the last decade we have attacked OPEC members who tried to sell their oil in something other than the dollar. Iraq tried to sell oil in Euros. Libya tried to set up a payment in gold. The ultimate goal, stated in 2007 is to topple the Iranian regime who is selling oil for almost any commodity othe than US dollars. If the dollar petro system is broken, demand for dollars will plummet and we won't have a monopoly on commodities. China and Russia are trying to break out of the system and if Iran goes down they'll have no hope. They've stated that intervention is Syria is a prelude to attacking Iran, who hasn't invaded another country since the 1700's. China and Russia will intervene militarily if we invade Syria. Key bono; who benefits from keeping the petro dollar system in place? The Federal Reserve, owned by a private cartel of banks, stands to lose over $3 trillion should the petro dollar system be broken. That's why we've vowed to protect Saudi Arabia. Military intervention is Syria, and then Iran will lead to WWIII.
on June 14,2013 | 09:38AM
Pocho wrote:
Where's the money coming from to supply the weapons to Syria?
on June 14,2013 | 05:10AM
serious wrote:
I think it's coming out of Obama's family trip to Africa--they have cut it from $100,000,000 to $60,000,000--I mean they are sacrificing--well we voted for CHANGE--and that's what's left.
on June 14,2013 | 09:22AM
GWakai02 wrote:
Too little, too late. Missed our chance.
on June 14,2013 | 05:30AM
pcman wrote:
Like Pres Clinton did in Iraq and Pres Obama did in Libya, we can launch standoff weapons (cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles, cruise bombs, etc) against offensive Syrian weapons and air forces to help the rebels penetrate Syrian strongholds. We don't need to send in troops on the ground. Once the Syrian air forces and air defenses are destroyed, we can send in drones (unmanned air vehicles) to get leadership targets and more refined targets.
on June 14,2013 | 07:31AM
DanLBoom wrote:
WHY DOES THE U.S. FEEL THE NEED TO KEEP STICKING HIS ( OUR ) NOSE IN OTHER PEOPLES AFFAIRS???
on June 14,2013 | 07:21AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Dan on nose. Presidents like to show their macho by employing military forces regardless of the need or the risk of sending our young men into war. They rather face the potential of unintended consequences by going to war rather than not going. Bottom line is when and if we can, they will. The dilemma is if we cannot go to war to defend ourselves, we'll be bullied and/or attacked. so we need to maintain a credible defense to deter any potential enemy from attacking us..
on June 14,2013 | 09:58AM
venacular50 wrote:
Slippery, slippery slope! There has been clamoring for a long time about arming the rebels, no plan is good, as I can see. There's always a cry, "US, please help us!" We give said help and it comes back to bite us. And, we may have to send our troops up against our own weapons. Its a "damned, if you do or damned, if you don't" situation. Cautiously, I see this as a trap that will last long after several administrations are gone. Leave it alone, its not worth the toll.
on June 14,2013 | 08:00AM
tsboy wrote:
the craziness continues. this president has no clue as to what he's doing. we have missed our chance to help the 'good' rebels defeat Assad. there are now terrorists backing the 'good' rebels against other terrorists. the ones that we will now be supplying arms to have just said that after Assad is defeated, their next fight is against America. and we will be giving arms to these guys? someone is not thinking rationally here. body armor and night vision goggles? how many American soldiers will die because we are giving these types of equipment to terrorists? if you have to help them, bomb Assad's forces into the stone age. do not give weapons to our enemy. i say, let them kill each other for now. the more bad guys that kill bad guys is a good thing. if the people of Syria really want to be free, they need to fight and die on their own. some already have, but not enough in my mind to go help them yet.
on June 14,2013 | 08:55AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The various news outlets have all reported that polls show 75% of Americans do not want the US to do more than provide humanitarian aid. I agree, let's stop exporting weapons of death. This is not our battle to fight and we do not even know with certainty who the good guys are - if any at all. Food and medicine, yes. Weapons and ammunition, no. People, he11 no.
on June 14,2013 | 09:38AM
Grimbold wrote:
Assads Sarin probably exists just as much as Saddams "weapons of mass destruction" did . I suspect the Story was supported by the same People who fooled our Government before into the Iraq war. I suspect Israel friendly agents because Israel has an interest in de-stabilizing the Arab States . They are not afraid of the inept Jihadists but rather were afraid of Saddam and Assad. Especially because Assad is an ally of Iran and Hisbollah.
on June 14,2013 | 09:50AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Obama supported the al-Qaeda rebels in Libya ... and they paid him back with Benghazi. The al-Qaeda fighters in Syria will find something to pay back Obama.
on June 14,2013 | 10:06AM
IN OTHER NEWS
Breaking News