Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Report: US officials say Obama ready to arm Syria rebels

US President Barack Obama is preparing to send lethal arms to the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday amid growing evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons.

The Post quoted the officials as saying political negotiations to oust Assad from power remains Obama's preferred option, but supplying weapons to rebels is one of several options under consideration.

According to the report, the Obama administration is pressuring Russian President Vladimir Putin to drop his support for Assad amid the reports he used chemical weapons. Obama is expected to make a decision on arming the opposition in the coming weeks, prior to a June meeting with Putin, the Post quoted officials as saying.

“We’re clearly on an upward trajectory,” the Post quoted a senior official as saying. “We’ve moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose.”

Obama, the officials reportedly said, is considering a range of options including establishing a no fly zone in Syria. 




  1. Turkish PM Erdogan stated that it was obvious the Assad regime used chemical weapons and he would discuss the issue with Obama during his US visit......


    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that Assad forces used chemical weapons in Syria and he would discuss the use of such weapons with US President Barack Obama during his upcoming US visit.
    Erdogan gave an interview to Japanese newspaper Nikkei.
    "We will discuss the use of chemical weapons during my visit on May 16 with President Obama. It is obvious that the Assad regime is using it. The opposition dominates on land however Assad uses chemical weapons, war planes and helicopters. The only field the regime is superior is air backed operations. The regime is living its final moments but we don't know when it will topple. This is a situation to take place suddenly," Erdogan said.
    -Turkey-Japan cooperation-
    Erdogan stated that Turkey and Japan had reached the point of signing an agreement in regards to the nuclear power plant and said, "We will build the nuclear power plant in Turkey's northern province Sinop in cooperation with Japan. Japan is experienced against earthquakes and possesses know how knowledge. It is also well developed in terms of environmental issues. Turkey aims to obtain minimum 15 percent of its total electric production from nuclear energy by 2030."
    Emphasizing that there were various fields in which Japan and Turkey could cooperate including suspension bridges and tube tunnels, Erdogan said, "The construction of the third bridge at Istanbul Strait began and we will go out to tender for the new airport in Istanbul. We will build one of the biggest airports in the world with a capacity of 100 million passengers at first stage. Preparations are ongoing for the canal project in western Istanbul. We would like Japanese firms to join the canal and airport projects together with Turkish firms."

  2. Congress derails Obama plans to arm Syrian rebels....

    Though the Obama administration has authorized military aid to the rebel opposition currently engaged in a civil war with the government of Bashar Assad, it now appears that the US Congress has essentially blocked that move over terrorism fears.

    Members of both the House and Senate intelligence committees have moved to enact stringent restrictions on funding the Syrian rebels, a move sufficient to prevent the White House from delivering on arms shipments according to sources who spoke with The Hill.

    In mid-June, following allegations from the White House that the Assad government had used chemical weapons against opposition forces moving to depose him, the Obama administration authorized arms shipments in a marked escalation of US involvement in the region.

    "This is going to be different in both scope and scale in terms of what we are providing," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser at the time.

    Now, according to sources familiar with committee activity, restrictions on that increased aid to Syria’s opposition may have essentially stopped the administration in its tracks.

    According to The Hill, lawmakers moved to block the military aid out of fears that weapons would fall into the hands of terrorist groups. US analysts are in particular concerned over the strengthening of the Syrian al-Qaeda-affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front.

    Though the Obama administration had long stated that the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s government constituted a “red line,” it seems that lawmakers on the intelligence committees are more worried about the regional threat posed by Islamist elements now engaged against Syrian government forces. ......

  3. White House lobbies Congress to break Syria arms deadlock ....

    WASHINGTON - US Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry are lobbying members of Congress to try to break an impasse over White House plans to send arms to Syrian rebels, US officials said on Tuesday.

    Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers fear the weapons will end up in the hands of Islamist militants, and will not be enough to tip the balance against Syrian President Bashar Assad anyway.

    Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees have advised the White House to delay sending weapons to the anti-Assad insurgents, Reuters reported on Monday. The committees signaled they wanted to put the brakes on funding for the operation after secret briefings by senior officials.

    No US arms have reached the rebels, who are struggling to hold back an offensive by the better-equipped Syrian government.

    Biden, who is often used by the White House to negotiate difficult deals, spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday to persuade them to back the Syria arms plan, US officials and a congressional source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

    "Biden was making phone calls today," to lobby Congress, the congressional source said. US officials also said CIA Director John Brennan, whose agency would run most of the arms operation, was part of the lobbying effort.

  4. Syrian rebels ask Kerry to send US arms quickly; situation 'desperate' ...

    NEW YORK - The head of Syria's opposition told US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday the country's situation was "desperate" and called for the United States to arm the rebels quickly and to push harder for a political settlement.

    "The US commitment of military support to the Supreme Military Council is vital, but it needs to happen fast, and in a way that allows us to defend ourselves and protect civilians," Ahmed al-Jarba, the Syrian National Coalition's newly elected leader, said in a statement released as he met Kerry in New York.

    "The situation in Syria is desperate. We urgently need American action to push the international community to demand a political transition," he added. "American leadership and drive is essential to end this war and bring the democracy that the large majority of the Syrian people want."

    Jarba and three other senior SNC members - Burhan Ghalioun, Najib Ghadbian and Michel Kilo - are in New York to meet informally with the 15-member UN Security Council on Friday.

    1. Syrian rebels press US to send weapons fast, Kerry sees no military solution to crisis....

      Syrian opposition leaders on their three-day visit to the US have urged Washington to get a move on with sending promised arms to the rebels. John Kerry has declared there’s no military solution to the crisis.

      A delegation representing the Syrian National Coalition, headed by its newly-elected leader Ahmed Jarba, met with John Kerry on Thursday at the US mission to the United Nations in New York. The statement Jarba issued following the closed-door talks described the situation in Syria as “desperate” and urged the US to start delivering on its military aid promise as soon as possible.

      "The US commitment of military support to the Supreme Military Council is vital, but it needs to happen fast, and in a way that allows us to defend ourselves and protect civilians," Jarba said.

      The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have recently given a green light to arm Syrian rebels, declaring they had their concerns alleviated. Not fully though, as can be seen from a comment made by Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

      "One of our main issues is to make sure that, whatever we do, that nothing gets in the hands of Al Qaeda," said Ruppersberger, as cited by Reuters.....

  5. Insight: Syrian rebels upset with U.S. after chemical weapons deal...

    (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition feels badly let down by Washington's decision to do a deal with Moscow to eliminate Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons but diplomats are warning the Syrian National Coalition that it risks losing Western support if it cannot adapt to new realities.

    The rift that has alienated the Syrian opposition from the United States threatens to derail international efforts to end the two and a half year civil war, diplomatic and opposition sources said.

    It comes as the war has turned into a something of a stalemate on the battlefield and the rebels had been looking to the United States to tilt the balance in their favor by intervening militarily to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.

    The behind the scenes dispute, in which Saudi Arabia and Turkey appear to be siding with the opposition, developed last week as the United States and Russia made their deal to destroy Assad's chemical arsenal following a nerve gas attack on rebel areas of Damascus that killed hundreds, the sources said.

    The agreement, from which the United States hopes a wider political settlement can emerge, has reduced the likelihood of a U.S. strike on Assad's forces that the opposition had hoped would weaken him militarily and force him to attend a planned new peace conference.

    The opposition is therefore furious that Washington suddenly and without its knowledge changed course a week after informing leaders of the main Syrian National Coalition that a strike was imminent, according to coalition members.

    In the opposition's view, the deal with Russia contains a de facto admission of the legitimacy of the Assad government, undermining the goal of Syrian uprising and the likelihood that any peace talks will result in Assad's removal.

    U.S. President Barack Obama said this week that while it was still his goal to "transition" Assad out of power, dealing with his chemical weapons would come first.

    Diplomats who monitored a major opposition meeting in Istanbul at the weekend said a lack of flexibility by the coalition in the way it deals with the changing diplomatic priorities, as spelled out by Obama, could rob the opposition of Western support.


    The Arab- and Western-backed Free Syrian Army needs what friends it can get as it struggles to deal with mounting chaos in rebel areas.....


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