U.S. looks to accelerate aid to new Syrian opposition group
A handout picture released by the Syrian Revolution General Commission shows Syrians inspecting the site of a car bomb attack in the Daf Shawk district of Damascus on October 26, 2012.
November 12th, 2012
07:26 PM ET

U.S. looks to accelerate aid to new Syrian opposition group

By Jill Dougherty

U.S. officials are relieved now that Syria's disjointed opposition has finally succeeded in creating a united front.

"What happened over the weekend was huge," a senior administration official told CNN. "I think it's fair to say that most of us were pessimistic, but the opposition did it. They have a long way to go, but this was a major step forward."

Nevertheless, the official admitted: "We are cautiously optimistic at best."

The United States has been pressing the opposition to unite and officials now say the Obama administration is urging the new National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces to quickly form a technical working group with which it can coordinate assistance.

The State Department is sending a high-level delegation to an emergency aid meeting in London on November 16. Ambassador William Taylor, who was present in Doha, Qatar, where the new coalition was created, will lead the U.S. officials at that meeting.

The United States, the official said, will seek to "accelerate and increase assistance to the Syrian people."

"In the short term, we will continue the non-lethal aid," the official explained. "However, you will see us now looking to coordinate and pony up cash assistance to assist a new government in transition efforts."

The United States, however, is not opening the spigots immediately on further aid to the new opposition coalition, insisting that it must respect human rights and guarantee equal treatment for all Syrian citizens.

Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who headed the U.S. delegation to Doha, said U.S. cooperation will be based on the opposition's adherence to two declarations it signed in Cairo last July: the National Compact and the Transition plan.

The two documents pledge "full equality of citizenship regardless of their origin, color, sex, language, ethnicity, political opinion, religion, or sect." The declaration also promises to remove all forms of discrimination against women.

Asked whether U.S. aid would be disbursed according to how Washington evaluates how the coalition meets the criteria - the senior administration official told CNN: "Though we have yet to say that explicitly, that's a fair characterization."

"But it's more about positive reinforcement, rather than negative," the official said. "We want them to know that we and the international community will be there to support them as a democratic transition goes forward."

Syria expert Andrew J. Tabler of The Washington Institute, however, cautioned that division inside the Syrian opposition is "very real."

"Now we have an umbrella organization inside of an umbrella organization," he told CNN.

"We have the SNC, which is dominated by exiles – in itself a collection of Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and liberals – now under the umbrella of another organization with a lot of older national figures. The good news is there are 14 people from local councils but the circumstances of their selection are not clear. ... There aren't any armed representatives on this council. It represents civilians but the question is how are you going to coordinate with the military end?"

For now, the Obama administration is limiting its assistance for the Syrian opposition to "humanitarian and non-lethal" aid. But Tabler said "We're going to have to go to something more lethal that protects people and supports the opposition or Assad is going to stay there for a while."

The United States might, he said, support a "safe zone" using Patriot missiles in which Washington would let its allies do the arming.

"But the problem," he said, "is that our allies – like Qatar and Saudi Arabia specifically – they share our short-term interest of bringing down the Assad regime but not our long-term interest of a secular and democratic Syria."

For now, the U.S. aim in helping the opposition, the State Department said, is to force Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave office.

"We look forward to supporting the National Coalition," it said in a statement that congratulated the opposition for creating the new coalition "as it charts a course toward the end of Assad's bloody rule and the start of the peaceful, just, democratic future that all the people of Syria deserve."

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Raven

    Choppertrash u are so suck big time u are going to get hurt some day Raven says it ravenhawk2029@aol.com Butthead

    November 27, 2012 at 12:52 am | Reply
  2. choppertrash

    Great idea. Let's make sure the Muslim Brotherhood gets all the help it needs...

    November 14, 2012 at 8:24 am | Reply
  3. Jinnah form hell

    Rent Paki soldiers.

    November 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  4. Hahahahahahahahhaha

    Sure, let's give more aid to people who hate us!!! Towel heads are Towel heads. It doesn't matter which Towel heads rule. They are still Towel heads. Hahahahahahahahahah

    November 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  5. helenecha

    What are the man-made risks people are facing? Are they ignorant, backward and poor situations? In order to eliminate the risks, will we win the bigger risks?

    November 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  6. George Patton

    No surprise here. The right-wing thugs in Washington are and have been aspiring to take over in Syria with the help of their NATO cronies and the connivance of the Arab League. This is why Hilary Clinton keeps on screeching and squawking "regime change" in Syria over al-Assad's "human rights violations"! How revolting this is!!!

    November 13, 2012 at 8:10 am | Reply
  7. Looking glass

    It is probable and likely that the opposition is pandering to the stated requirements of aid finds from the US.
    No Arab regime can sustain these ambitions as they also have their crazies in their own "Tea Party" to deal with on forming any kind of government. Unfortunate in such a histories and beautiful country . We sim.py should not get involved at any level as it will make no difference – they would rather fight than eat!

    November 13, 2012 at 5:53 am | Reply
  8. helenecha

    What are the man-made risks people are facing? Are they ignorant, backward and poor? In order to eliminate the risks, will we win the bigger risks?

    November 13, 2012 at 12:22 am | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.