Kerry says doubling U.S. non-lethal aid to Syrian opposition

ISTANBUL Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:32pm EDT

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (C), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib leave a news conference after the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul April 20, 2013. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (C), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Syrian opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib leave a news conference after the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul April 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Osman Orsal

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the United States would double its non-lethal aid to opposition forces in Syria to $250 million.

Kerry stopped short of a U.S. pledge to supply weapons to insurgents fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But he said that the rebels' foreign backers were committed to continuing support and had decided to channel all future aid through the insurgents' Supreme Military Council.

He added that "there would have to be further announcements about the kind of support that might be in the days ahead" if Syrian government forces failed to pursue a peaceful solution.

Speaking after a meeting of the Syrian opposition and its 11 main foreign supporters in Istanbul, Kerry said the United States would provide an additional $123 million in non-lethal assistance to the rebels, bringing the total of this kind of U.S. help to $250 million.

Kerry urged other foreign backers to make similar pledges of assistance with the goal of reaching $1 billion in total international support.

At a later news conference on Sunday afternoon, Kerry said he would push to ensure that new non-lethal military aid would be delivered as soon as possible.

Kerry said the equipment could include communications equipment, body armor, night vision goggles and medical supplies to assist the insurgents.

Other military supplies pledged by Kerry in late February, including ready-made meals and medical supplies, are only expected to be delivered by the end of this month.

Asked when the opposition could expect to receive the new supplies, Kerry told reporters:

"I can promise you that as soon as I return to Washington which is early this next week, I am going to press as hard I can to make sure that this is a matter of weeks that we are talking about...this has to happen as quickly as possible."

Kerry said he had discussed ways to break the logjams during meetings with the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who hosted the meetings on Saturday between the Syrian opposition and their foreign backers.

"I am quite confident that some of those logjams are going to be broken," he said.

Kerry also said that an agreement by the foreign backers to channel future military assistance via the opposition's Supreme Military Council headed by Brigadier Selim Idris, would speed the delivery of supplies.


Germany took a clear stance that it would not be supplying any arms to Syrian rebels, but would give other forms of assistance.

"We Germans have decided that we will not deliver any weapons but we will support the Syrian opposition in other ways," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told German television channel ARD on Sunday, adding that Germany was the second biggest donor country.

Westerwelle said Germany considered directly delivering weapons to be problematic but added that Germany could not stop other countries from doing this.

"They can easily end up in the wrong hands and that is of course a danger for neighboring countries and for the whole region and we want to prevent a conflagration," he said.

The United States takes the same view. Despite pressure from some members of Congress and recommendations even from among his own advisers, U.S. President Barack Obama has refused to supply arms to the rebels, reflecting concern that such weapons would fall into the hands of Islamist militants.


Secretary of State Kerry, speaking after the end of the "Friends of Syria" meeting overnight, said Syria's crisis was in a "critical moment".

"The stakes in Syria couldn't be more clear: Chemical weapons, the slaughter of people by ballistic missiles and other weapons of huge destruction. The potential of a whole country, a beautiful country with great people, being torn apart and perhaps breaking up into enclaves (with the) potential of sectarian violence which this region knows there is too much of.

"What we are trying to do is to avoid all of that. And we committed to - we recommitted - because we think there are some people who don't believe that we believe it, or are in fact committed to it," he said.

Kerry referred to a statement issued after the meeting by Syria's main opposition National Coalition in which it pledged not to use chemical weapons, rejected "all forms of terrorism" and vowed that its weapons would not fall into the wrong hands.

In its declaration outlining its vision of a post-Assad Syria and issued following the meeting with Western and Arab backers, the coalition also said it would not allow acts of revenge against any group in Syria.

The latest U.S. expansion of non-lethal aid follows Kerry's announcement in Rome in late February that Washington would shift policy to provide medical supplies and food directly to opposition fighters, an option it had previously rejected.

(Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Comments (2)
Great, the very week that Islamic extremists attack Boston, Kerry announces he’s giving $250 million to Islamic extremists to overthrow the Syrian government. How many hundreds or thousands of jihadists will that money be used to train? How many hundreds or thousands of Syrian citizens will be killed by that money? How many months or years will Americans have to wait for the blowback?
One expects stupidity from Republicans, it is sad to see Democrats following their lead. The trillions spent by the State Department to overthrow and put in puppet governments throughout the Middle East has only paid dividends to the oil companies. It hasn’t helped the people of the Middle East or the people of the United States.
Instead of paying criminals to seize power, it is better leaving people free to work out their own future. Hasn’t Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Libya proven this?

Apr 21, 2013 3:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Here’s the proverbial “rub” – this “assistance” is destined to ultimately bite all of America.

Can anyone bring themselves to honestly ask the obvious and appropriate questions:

1. Except for the ‘policy’ of ensuring the toppling of every regime in the region – save for Israel – what “test” can be applied to establish the ‘legitimacy’ of a national rebellion? When does a long established government lose its legitimacy – as determined by the USA, et al?

2. What choice would any established government have, when dealing with rebels/terrorists who methodically embed themselves amidst civilians?

3. As a pertinent contrast, in Afghanistan & Pakistan, the U.S. doesn’t care about anything but ‘getting caught,’ when a U.S. drone or airstrike takes out half a dozen civilians, or more; in an attempt to nail a single ‘bad-guy.’ Is there a ‘globalist’ limit to the obvious hypocrisy?

4. However unpopular it may be to address, Obama asserts his “right” to kill U.S. citizens abroad; just based on ‘suspicion’ – from the very entities who instigated the War Crime invasion and occupation of Iraq. Obama is apparently now so ‘privileged’ and ‘elite’ as to forget the mandate of an American’s Constitutional “right-to-life;’ as established during the 1960s desegregation movement. What happened to his memory; and his Oath of Office?

5. In a U.S. criminal scenario, this style of ‘assistance’ would be nothing short of “… aiding and abetting.” How is this “assistance” different?

6. Under any circumstances, what difference does it ‘constructively’ make, whether the U.S. supplies weapons; or knowingly frees up ‘militant’ funds for alternately buying them?

7. Most importantly, is this style of “American diplomacy” the root of the Boston Bombings – and more to come?

Kerry is effecting the very mechanism which ensured that the U.S. essentially ‘lost’ the Viet Nam War. Viet Cong or ‘militants;’ there’s no appreciable difference. The U.S. is guaranteed to badly lose; save for essentially the same corporate profiteers who bathed in the profits of the Viet Nam War.

Apr 21, 2013 6:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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