WHITE HOUSE — White House officials on Thursday dismissed reports that President Barack Obama signed an order to send U.S. aid to Syrian anti-government forces. The administration announced it is sending more humanitarian aid to Syria and neighboring countries.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not deny that the United States is helping the Syrian rebels. But he told reporters that the administration’s policy of providing non-lethal assistance to the opposition has not changed.
“We do not believe that adding to the number of weapons in Syria is what is needed to help bring about a peaceful transition,” Carney said.
The Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday that Obama signed a secret order earlier this year, authorizing U.S. support for the Syrian rebels. The story said the order allows the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the opposition depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian human rights activist Ammar Abdulhamid, with the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, says his contacts in Syria tell him there is no evidence of a surge in aid to the rebels.
“I do not really see any intensification of these efforts. I see a lot of leaks, it seems to me, that were sort of primed to show that something is being done. But the reality is, so far on the ground, we have not detected any real involvement by the U.S. in the ongoing military operations in the country,” Abdulhamid said.
The State Department said Wednesday that the United States has allocated $25 million for non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, much of it for communications equipment.
White House spokesman Jay Carney announced on Thursday that Obama has approved another $12 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for Syria and surrounding countries. He said that brings the total of food and other assistance from Washington to more than $76 million.
Human rights activist Ammar Abdulhamid says he expects much of the new aid to go to refugees in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as to those trapped in Syria.
“But I will also imagine that they will try to send some aid to local communities who are cut off and have been cut off because of the fighting, and where food supplies are getting more and more scarce,” Abdulhamid said.
The United Nations estimates that more than three million people in Syria will need humanitarian aid in the coming year, and that tens of thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring countries.
The White House announcement came on the same day that Kofi Annan announced plans to step down as the United Nations and Arab League peace envoy in Syria. The former U.N. secretary-general said increased fighting and a lack of unity in the U.N. Security Council were making it more difficult for him to carry out his mission.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Annan’s departure shows that Russia and China were “on the wrong side of history” by vetoing a Security Council resolution condemning the Assad government for the violence.