U.S. Congress secretly approves arms delivery to "moderate" Syrian rebels until September 2014
U.S. Congress has “secretly” approved the delivery of light arms to Syrian rebels deemed “moderate” in the south of the country, Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday, citing U.S. and European security officials.
According to report, closed-door Congress votes have funded the arms deliveries until the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on Sept. 30.
The weapons include a variety of small arms, as well as some more powerful weapons, such as anti-tank rockets. They do not include, however, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, which could shoot down military or civilian aircrafts, the officials told the news agency.
Speaking to Reuters, Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and sometime foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama, described the Syrian civil war as a “stalemate.”
“The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad; the regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides' external allies... are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future,” Riedel said.
A U.S. official familiar with recent developments said national security officials and members of Congress are more confident that weapons delivered to southern Syria are going to, and remaining in, the hands of moderate rebels rather than militant jihadist factions.
Congress approved funding for weapons deliveries to the Syrian rebels in classified sections of defense appropriations legislation, two sources familiar with the matter said. It was not clear when the funding was approved, but unclassified defense funding passed Congress in late December.
Some additional budget tweaks may be necessary to ensure that all the approved funding is fully available for disbursement during the current fiscal year.
Yet, officials who support providing U.S. arms to the rebels acknowledge that this has not greatly increased U.S. expectations of victory by anti-Assad forces, whether moderate or militant.