Kerry to announce more nonlethal aid for Syrian rebels
April 20th, 2013
07:28 AM ET

Kerry to announce more nonlethal aid for Syrian rebels

By Elise Labott

The Obama administration is set to announce a significant expansion of nonlethal aid to the armed Syrian opposition as the European Union moves closer to lifting an arms embargo to potentially arm rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials told CNN.

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to announce the new assistance package at an international meeting on Syria in Istanbul on Saturday, the officials said.

CNN first reported on April 9 that the administration was finalizing a package of increased assistance. The officials said the exact dollar amount and specific items to be shipped have not been finalized, and will be determined in Istanbul, where Kerry is to meet with other donors to Syria and leaders of the Syrian opposition.

However, officials said the package is expected to include more than $100 million in equipment such as body armor, night vision goggles and other military equipment that is defensive in nature, but could be used to aid in combat by Syrian rebels battling forces loyal to al-Assad.

Other options under discussion include assistance to support the expansion of the ongoing, civilian-led programs for delivery of critical goods and services by local councils throughout Syria and additional aid for capacity building efforts, the officials said

Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday a goal of Friends of Syria meeting is to identify "what accelerants to Assad's departure might make the most sense."

Increasing nonlethal aid to the rebels could help convince al-Assad that he must step down, Kerry said.

Another aim of the conference is to "get everybody on the same page" with respect to what a post-Assad Syria will look like," he said. That could "create a confidence level about who's getting what kind of aid from whom."

The move by Washington to expand assistance to the armed rebels reflects what U.S. officials describe as a ramped-up effort to change the military balance on the battlefield in Syria to get al-Assad to step down.

The move comes as Britain and France are leading efforts to lift a European Union arms embargo on Syria.

Both have suggested they are prepared to join nations such as Qatar in providing the rebels with weapons, and are urging the United States to do the same. The arms embargo expires in May and diplomats said the EU countries are discussing possibly allowing it to expire or be amended to ban only weapons for Syrian government forces.

The package being discussed, however, still falls short of the heavy weapons and high tech equipment sought by the rebels.

Despite pressure from Congress and his own national security team, President Barack Obama has been cautious about increasing direct aid for the armed rebels. Kerry has pushed for more aggressive U.S. involvement in Syria since taking office in February.

Last month, Obama agreed to send food and medicine to the rebels, the first direct U.S. support for the armed opposition.

Supporters of expanding the aid argue such a step would strengthen the hand of moderate members of the opposition and make them less reliant on well-armed extremist elements within their ranks.

"Everybody has now accepted a concern about extremist elements who have forced their way into this picture, and there is a desire by all parties to move those extremist elements to the side and to give support, I believe, to the Syrian opposition," Kerry said Thursday. "That's a big step forward."

A push last summer from CIA, Pentagon and State Department leaders was rejected by the White House. At least for now, it remains opposed to arming the opposition, fearing that U.S.-provided weapons could wind up in the wrong hands.

The Obama administration has funneled $385 million in humanitarian aid to Syria through international institutions and nongovernmental organizations.

In addition, Washington has provided more than $100 million to the political opposition and has pressed it to establish a leadership structure.

But the Syrian Opposition Council, the main Syrian opposition group, has roundly criticized the United States for refusing to provide badly-needed support to organize a transitional government and broaden its support inside Syria.

After Istanbul, Kerry will travel to Brussels, where he will discuss the Syria crisis with NATO and EU foreign ministers. He will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The Obama administration sees Moscow, one of Syria's most important backers, as key to a political settlement.

On Thursday, Kerry said Washington was still open to negotiations between the regime and the opposition but warned "that time is not on the side of a political solution. It's on the side of more violence, more extremism, an enclave breakup of Syria."

The longer the war drags on, Kerry said, the greater the chance of a "very dangerous sectarian confrontation over the long term, and the potential of really bad people getting hold of chemical weapons," he added.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Eleni

    The Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim , were kidnapped in the village of Kfar Dael as they were carrying out humanitarian work. Their driver was killed in the violent attack leading up to their kidnapping. Our government is backing the "freedom fighters" that did this. One must ask why these individuals are being given ANY aid from out country if they persecute leaders of two MINORITY CHURCHES??? When do we start talking about human rights abuses? When will the patronage of of these radical groups STOP?

    April 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  2. AJAX

    Hmm, let me get this straight. President Obama received a Nobel Prize for secretively funding military aid to Syrian rebels who pledged allegiance to the enemy. Well, if Obama and Kerry think it's a great plan, seems legit...NOT!

    April 22, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Reply
    • Pete

      @AJAX,he didn't get the Nobel Peace prize that way bud..Get your facts strait and yes he has done a respectful job of ending wars that Bush,Cheney started with lies right!!No troops on the ground in capturing ,killing Kadafi just aiding militarily with jets ,supervisory support..What to you want another senseless,costly war ,I sure a hell don't!!

      April 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  3. Zoglet

    Once again fermenting trouble in other countries and undermining the express wishes of the UN.
    When will the US ever learn?

    April 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Reply
    • USMC1371

      F@#k the U.N. the U.S. has nothing to do with it. This is all on mr Nobel peace prise winner Obama. Bet they wish they could take that back....

      April 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Reply
      • George Patton-2

        Whoever thought of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to this butcher Barack Obama needs to have their head examined, but then again, these people were most probably bribed into doing so! It makes me sick to know that Obama keeps ordering the obscene butchery of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen with his ungodly drones and yet claim this prize. Something here is definitely wrong!!!

        April 22, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • Joseph McCarthy

        You nailed it good, George. Awarding Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize is the most ludicrous idea conceived yet. This monster slaughters people day after day with those cursed drones and he gets the prize here? Somebody was evidently paid off!

        April 22, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  4. USMC1371

    Hahahaha Obama making bush look like a saint. How many dems wish they could have their vote back?

    April 21, 2013 at 1:49 am | Reply
    • Pete

      @1371usmc,what wars did he start,none and I can tell you a bunch that republicans have started with Vietnam ,Eisenhower in the 50s bud,Bush Sr and Iraq 1 and Bush Jr ,Cheney in Iraq ,Afghanistan wars both unfunded and both started with lies fed to democrates and republicans alike and ruining Colin Powells career as the poster child that delivered those lies to the UN and everyone else as well.Who'd question a military hero in Powell,good choice Mr Puppetmaster Cheney..Marine ,I thought you'd have some sense but sometimes even I can be wrong right jarhead!!And I voted for Pres.Obama and I'm glad I did yah supposid soldier if you are one!!

      April 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  5. Dave Eddleman

    @George Patton-2" Afghanistan would be a prosperous Communist state where everyone had a right to an education and medical attention and totally free of foreign rule unlike that of today!! "and be totally free of foreign rule (under the communist USSR dictatorship)

    Does that "thinking" stuff actually hurt , while blending parrotings is easier?

    I hope this is tongue-in-cheek humor or someone's brain has been entirely scrubbed away.

    April 20, 2013 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  6. saeed

    hey kerry you you monkey you should have done something about the boston bombings when your own people the irish were blown to pieces kerry is a irish surname you should have also have helped the irish police man richard donoghue when he got bullet wounds and is lying criticaly injured at the hospital he got also beaten the blood out of him in the boston bombings. lots of talk coming from a coward kerry is a loser.

    April 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • soldier-cold

      saeed, are you an idiot? John Kerry is the U.S. secretary of state or in other terms the U.S. Foreign Minister. Therefore Kerry's job is to protect the U.S. interests from threats OVERSEAS. Please stop typing and go read something to stimulate your feeble brain. It really needs it.

      April 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Reply
      • saeed

        go home to were you came from you bankcrupt subhuman garbage.

        April 20, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • Dave Eddleman

        So Obama and Kerry are doubling the aid, including military hardware, to the Al-Qaeda backed rebels. Doesn't anyone else have a problem with this?

        April 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  7. Ismail ALjazaeri

    America inconsistancies in the fight against terror is absolutely innacceptable. America support terror in Syria because they disgree with the Syrian government but urge othe world to fight terror when it's interests are in stake. But you have to remember as long as you support terror, the terror will come back to hunt the US. It was true when the US supported AL qaeda in Afghanistan, its true today in Syria, and it will be true in the future. There are no good and bad terrorists all of them are criminals. We must all fight them!

    April 20, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
    • A 5th Marine

      Well said, Ismail.

      April 20, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • Joe

      Interesting post,very interesting.

      April 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply
      • Joe

        The reason I said its interesting is the fact there is alot of thought put into what You said.Very constuctive and it makes people think.Most posts are just nothing but how can I say nothing constructive at all.I have more flamboyant terms actually.

        April 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • soldier-cold

      Ismail, that's why it took the U.S. so long to finally support the opposition to Al Assad's govt; we had no idea who they were exactly. It seems there's two fronts attacking him: the FSA rebels and an al Qaeda militant group. Clearly the U.S. wants to aid the Syrian people after videos after videos show govt forces mercilessly attacking its own people and deliberately shooting at children. Every country in the world ONLY cares about ITS OWN SELF INTRESTS. EVERY country/nation is selfish in this regards. The U.S. is by far from perfect but can you name another country that goes out of its way to ATTEMPT to help others? There is a saying that goes something like 'those who do evil have good intentions'; so the U.S. may be trying to help but it remains to be seen what becomes of this.

      You mentioned Afghanistan, you're right. But had the U.S. not just left the mujahedeen out to dry and instead built school, helped establish a stable govt and rebuild infrastructure then MAYBE just MAYBE the TALIBAN would NOT be the TALIBAN and may have been fine upstanding people living in a prosperous, beautiful country instead of a bunch of religious fanatics telling children to blow themselves up.

      April 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Reply
      • George Patton-2

        Or better yet soldier-cold, had the Russians succeeded in Afghanistan that country would be a prosperous Communist state where everyone had a right to an education and medical attention and totally free of foreign rule unlike that of today!!! Quit bragging about our "helping people" in other countries, will you? The reason we're there is to exploit Afghanistan's underground mineral resources for a profit!

        April 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Pete

      @Ismail,the only good terrorist is a dead one but the only terrorists we'd be siding with mirrors are own believes and values,freedoms .Religious believes aside if it can be done sucessfully which can be used as an accelerant used in wars as well by propaganda...

      April 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Reply

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