U.S. providing some lethal aid to Syrian rebels: opposition spokesman

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:55pm EDT

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon behind sandbags in the eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, September 9, 2013. Picture taken September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Raje Alsori

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon behind sandbags in the eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, September 9, 2013. Picture taken September 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Raje Alsori

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has begun distributing some weapons to the Syrian rebels, a spokesman for the Syrian Coalition of groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday, after months of reported delays.

White House officials suggested in June that President Barack Obama had decided to provide military aid to the Syrian rebels, but in the months since, rebel leaders and U.S. lawmakers have said no lethal assistance has arrived.

"The U.S. is distributing non-lethal aid and ... some lethal assistance as well to the SMC (Supreme Military Council)," Saleh told a news conference, referring to the council that oversees operations of rebels loyal to General Salim Idriss.

The United States is providing lethal assistance "because they are sure that the mechanisms that the SMC has established are well tested and they will be sure that the weapons are not falling into the wrong hands," Saleh said.

He apparently referred to Washington's concerns that U.S. arms could end up benefiting radical Islamist groups, such as the al Nusra Front, active in northern Syria.

Saleh's comments at a Washington news conference may be the first public indication that U.S.-provided military goods such as arms or ammunition are actually moving to anti-Assad forces.

One U.S. government source said it was "unlikely" that any U.S.-supplied arms were on the ground in the hands of Syrian rebels at this time, while not dismissing the possibility that such aid was in the works.

Separately, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Washington was trying to upgrade its support for the Syrian opposition.

"It is ramping up, but I can tell you that many of the items that people have complained were not getting (to) them are now getting to them," Kerry said in a Google+ Hangout interview. He declined to say what military items were arriving.

PLANNING FOR STRIKES

Rebel spokesman Saleh, who is based in Turkey, spoke at a news conference called to urge the U.S. Congress to authorize Obama's proposal for limited military strikes in Syria following a chemical weapons attack on rebel areas outside Damascus on August 21 that the United States has blamed on Assad's forces.

Saleh said rebel military leaders were coordinating with the countries that might participate in a U.S.-led strike.

He said the Supreme Military Council also had a plan to derive tactical benefits from the strikes if they do take place, such as by securing areas that are hit.

The chances of U.S. military action have receded, however, since Russia offered a proposal on Monday for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons stockpile to international control.

Najib Ghadbian, the Syrian Coalition's representative in the United States, said the rebels favored securing Syria's chemical weapons, but the Russian proposal should be amended to include accountability for those who have committed poison gas attacks.

"We will work with the international community," Ghadbian said, but added: "We don't' trust the Syrian regime. We don't trust the Russians."

After two years of balking at directly arming the Syrian opposition, the White House's pledge in June to provide military aid to the rebels, came as the U.S. government said it had proof that Assad's forces had engaged in small-scale use of chemical weapons earlier this year.

Rebel sources recently confirmed receipt of arms such as anti-tank weapons financed by Saudi Arabia, which arrived last month through Jordan.

However, Republican and Democratic lawmakers on congressional intelligence committees held up the covert U.S. effort for a while over concerns that the arms could end up in the hands of Islamist militants in Syria. In late July, lawmakers gave the plan the green light.

Last week, a former senior U.S. official said a limited quantity of American arms had reached the rebels.

In the Google+ interview, Kerry said, "It is accurate to say that some things have not been getting to the opposition as rapidly as one would have hoped."

The CIA, which oversees the covert arming effort, had no comment on Saleh's remarks.

Lawmakers who favor arming the rebels, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Democrat Carl Levin, have urged Obama to step up U.S. support for the opposition as part of any plan to take military action in Syria.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria, Mark Hosenball, Paul Eckert, Patricia Zengerle and Warren Strobel; Editing by Christopher Wilson)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
hardquestions wrote:
Supplying arms to warring factions, especially whenas dealing with centuries old conflicts like the one between Shia and Sunnis is short-sighted and unwise. Leaders of both sects are to blame for their lack of wisdom and the blood shed. Perhaps the ICC can step in and try all leaders – religious or otherwise – who incite communal hatred and blood shed.

Sep 10, 2013 6:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kurdstaat wrote:
The terrorist West has not changed her grand foreign policy in the Middle East since WWI. Her grand mega policy regarding the Middle East and the nations that occupy that land has been consisting of allying with the terrorist Turks and terrorist Arabs against the Aryan Kurdish nation and the State of Iran. Terrorist West has perceived her national interest to divide the Kurd-State and empowering terrorist Turks and Arabs against the Aryans. The terrorist West has created Frankenstein States of Syria, Turkey and Iraq that have no precedent history of existence and are completely against the national interest of the Aryan Kurdish nation. By creating these Frankenstein States around 80 years ago terrorist achieved her policy of not only dividing Kurd-State among the enemies of Kurdish nation but also making sure that the power of enemies of Kurdish nation are always more the by distributing Western weapons to them. As a result the terrorist has made sure that the political and military power of the enemies of the Aryan Kurds are higher than the military and political power of Kurds.

Terrorist West has demilitarized the Aryan Kurds and refuses to allow the Kurds to organize themselves by labeling them terrorist. For Example when the Aryan Kurds in occupied Kurd-State in Turkey organized the PKK to form the core of Kurdish national military, the West quickly resorted to labeling them terrorist. Terrorist West has crucified the Aryan Kurdish nation with dividing her State among terrorist Turks and Arabs in Frankenstein Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

Aryan Kurdish nation condemns the terrorist Western policy of distributing weapon made by NATO to her enemies. Aryan Kurds in Syria deeply support the PKK as the national Kurdish military. We the intellectual elite of the Aryans understand that the Terrorist West has not quit her genocidal policies of arming terrorists such as Saddam-Al-Nusra-FSA-Turks-Al-Qaeda, however will not sit back and do nothing. HPG, the national Kurdish military has crushed the same organizations, that these American weapons are headed towards, mentioned in this article. During the past week alone HPG has launched an offensive against the FSA-Al-Nusra. As a result the battles initiated by both the HPG and terrorist Arabs, over 10 Kurdish towns and villages have been cleansed of Western backed terrorist Arabs. HPG has been established as the national protectors of Kurdish nation and has the sole responsibility of protecting the Aryan Kurds against all foreign invaders and armies. HPG has proved her success in eradicating Western backed terrorists by relying on the will of the Aryan nation for self-determination. Thousands of young and old Aryan Kurds from occupied Kurd-State in Syria have joined the HPG in the last 30 years with the sole purpose of protection of Aryan Kurdish nation and protecting her State.

The Aryan Kurdish nation recognizes that this is not the first time that the terrorist West has been supplying her enemies with weapons including weapons of mass destruction. The chemical weapons that have been used against Kurds in occupied Kurd-State in Iraq were supplied to Saddam by NATO. Also terrorist Turks have been using chemical and conventional weapons made by NATO against the Aryan Kurdish civilians and military.

Recognize that the world order that terrorist West has created equates to eternal war for Aryan Kurdish nation by crucifying Kurd-State.

Recognize the inherent animosity of terrorist West toward the Aryan Kurds.

Recognize the role of terrorist West in genocide of multiple generation of Aryan Kurds.

Recognize the Aryan Kurdish nation and her State.

Sep 10, 2013 8:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kurdstaat wrote:
The terrorist West has not changed her grand foreign policy in the Middle East since WWI. Her grand mega policy regarding the Middle East and the nations that occupy that land has been consisting of allying with the terrorist Turks and terrorist Arabs against the Aryan Kurdish nation and the State of Iran. Terrorist West has perceived her national interest to divide the Kurd-State and empowering terrorist Turks and Arabs against the Aryans. The terrorist West has created Frankenstein States of Syria, Turkey and Iraq that have no precedent history of existence and are completely against the national interest of the Aryan Kurdish nation. By creating these Frankenstein States around 80 years ago terrorist achieved her policy of not only dividing Kurd-State among the enemies of Kurdish nation but also making sure that the power of enemies of Kurdish nation are always more the by distributing Western weapons to them. As a result the terrorist has made sure that the political and military power of the enemies of the Aryan Kurds are higher than the military and political power of Kurds.

Terrorist West has demilitarized the Aryan Kurds and refuses to allow the Kurds to organize themselves by labeling them terrorist. For Example when the Aryan Kurds in occupied Kurd-State in Turkey organized the PKK to form the core of Kurdish national military, the West quickly resorted to labeling them terrorist. Terrorist West has crucified the Aryan Kurdish nation with dividing her State among terrorist Turks and Arabs in Frankenstein Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

Aryan Kurdish nation condemns the terrorist Western policy of distributing weapon made by NATO to her enemies. Aryan Kurds in Syria deeply support the PKK as the national Kurdish military. We the intellectual elite of the Aryans understand that the Terrorist West has not quit her genocidal policies of arming terrorists such as Saddam-Al-Nusra-FSA-Turks-Al-Qaeda, however will not sit back and do nothing. HPG, the national Kurdish military has crushed the same organizations, that these American weapons are headed towards, mentioned in this article. During the past week alone HPG has launched an offensive against the FSA-Al-Nusra. As a result the battles initiated by both the HPG and terrorist Arabs, over 10 Kurdish towns and villages have been cleansed of Western backed terrorist Arabs. HPG has been established as the national protectors of Kurdish nation and has the sole responsibility of protecting the Aryan Kurds against all foreign invaders and armies. HPG has proved her success in eradicating Western backed terrorists by relying on the will of the Aryan nation for self-determination. Thousands of young and old Aryan Kurds from occupied Kurd-State in Syria have joined the HPG in the last 30 years with the sole purpose of protection of Aryan Kurdish nation and protecting her State.

The Aryan Kurdish nation recognizes that this is not the first time that the terrorist West has been supplying her enemies with weapons including weapons of mass destruction. The chemical weapons that have been used against Kurds in occupied Kurd-State in Iraq were supplied to Saddam by NATO. Also terrorist Turks have been using chemical and conventional weapons made by NATO against the Aryan Kurdish civilians and military.

Recognize that the world order that terrorist West has created equates to eternal war for Aryan Kurdish nation by crucifying Kurd-State.

Recognize the role of terrorist West in genocide of multiple generation of Aryan Kurds.

Recognize the Aryan Kurdish nation and her State.

Sep 10, 2013 8:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.