News / Middle East

US Suspends Non-Lethal Aid for Syrian Rebels

A Syrian refugee carries bread and bottles of water during a winter storm in Zahle town, in the Bekaa Valley, Dec. 11, 2013.
A Syrian refugee carries bread and bottles of water during a winter storm in Zahle town, in the Bekaa Valley, Dec. 11, 2013.
The United States confirmed Wednesday that non-lethal aid to northern Syria has been suspended after Islamist fighters seized warehouses used by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army rebels.  

The White House and State Department made a point of emphasizing that humanitarian aid continues, though non-lethal assistance has been suspended.

Fighters from the Islamic Front, an umbrella group of six major rebel brigades, seized Free Syrian Army bases and weapons warehouses at a border crossing between Syria and Turkey.

Independent from the FSA, the front seeks to establish an Islamic state in Syria.

U.S. spokesmen said Washington is concerned about reports of the seizures, is "still gathering facts and consulting with General Idriss" and others on the rebel Supreme Military Council "to inventory the status of U.S. equipment and supplies."

White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest was asked if the suspension reflects a loss of faith in the ability of FSA rebels to fight without Islamic extremist interference or participation.

He said U.S. assistance is aimed at supporting moderate opposition elements, and responded this way when asked if the suspension weakens military opposition to  President Bashar al-Assad.

"What we are interested in doing is trying to coordinate and lift - coordinate with and lift up the moderate elements of the opposition. And that has been a challenge from the very beginning, both to identify the moderate elements of the opposition and to provide them the support that they need to try to bring about the kind of transition that reflects the will of the Syrian people. That has been a challenging proposition from the very beginning, and that continues to be challenging," said  Earnest.

Britain also suspended its nonlethal aid.  A Free Syrian Army official urged the U.S. and Britain to "re-think" the decision and wait until there is more clarity on the ground.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked how long the suspension might last.

"I wouldn't want to put a day on - or a date or a day on it. Obviously it's in our interests and the international community's interest to resume - to have the aid going through this area as soon as we can, but we want to evaluate the circumstances on the ground and make a decision," said Psaki.

Psaki and Earnest said humanitarian assistance distributed through international and nongovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, is not affected.

Asked for clarification later, a White House official referred this reporter to the State Department "for further details on the area impacted by the suspension."

Speaking with VOA's Senate correspondent on Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John McCain voiced his concern.

"It's a recognition of the reality that parts of the northern Syrian border have been taken over by the al-Nusra and other extremist Islamist groups directly attribute to [directly as a result of] our failure to help people who are the moderates, the Free Syrian Army, led by General Idriss.  Our failure to help them while 5,000 Hezbollah came in, while plane loads of arms came in from Russia, while [Iran's] Revolutionary Guard is on the ground, and we have failed," said McCain.

McCain said external assistance has allowed Syrian President Assad to regain momentum on the ground from rebel forces.

You May Like

Afghan Government: Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Died in 2013

update President Ashraf Ghani's office confirms reclusive Taliban leader died in 2013, but Taliban itself claim Omar is still alive More

Erdogan in China Amid Tensions on Uighurs, Missile System

Turkey's president has criticized China's heavy-handed policies toward Uighurs in violence-plagued Xinjiang region, where China says it is fighting foreign-backed separatists More

Critics: China’s President Using Law to Tighten Grip on Power

President Xi, who has stressed importance of 'rule of law' and law-based governance, has exerted increasingly tighter grip over society since coming to office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Hassan Hussein from: Iran
December 12, 2013 1:55 AM
Iran and Hezbollah are terrorists that invaded Syria and are killing civilians. Iranian pilots were captured after their jets were shot down by rebels. America needs to destroy Iran completely and everything will be okay.

by: Anonymous
December 11, 2013 10:55 PM
It's only "Suspended" but will likely continue in another location or at another date very soon.

by: ali baba from: new york
December 11, 2013 8:06 PM
the fact is Bashar el Assad is less evil than the rebel. American made a poor judgment when they supported Osama bin laden group in Syria,\. American made a poor judgment decision when they supported Muslim brotherhood in Egypt. . American made a poor judgment when they supported Libya. . .I believe the current Democratic policy makers are not good to understand the Middle east mentality. they should consult Gorge W bush team to give them a word of advise of how they can take the right decision with Arab
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 11, 2013 10:53 PM
Nah, the fact is bashar al assad thugs commited heinous crimes in Syria , something he has 101% full control over. These thugs are protecting bashar al assad from prosecution by Syrians for the deaths of thousands. The top terrorist that terrrorized the most people and killed the most civilians is None Other than Bashar al Assad of Syria.

He has already lost the war by commiting such horrific crimes of such large scale (NOT INCLUDING CHEMICALS), now it is a matter of the international community going after him and holding him accountable for his crimes.

by: Walid from: Saudi Arabia
December 11, 2013 3:22 PM
really, oh what a shame... so the US wants the Muslim Brotherhood back in power in Egypt... and the Iranian Hezbullah in Syria... hey America, you have stopped being responsible under the occupation of Obama, and now you are becoming reckless and destructive... do you even know what is it you are doing...?? your incompetency is just breathtaking... or should i say Obama's incompetency is stunning...??
In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
December 11, 2013 8:12 PM
Let me remind you that Saudi Arabia is the country of double standard. what they in public is different from what they say in the dark. 19 hijackers from Saudi Arabia. Saudi produce Osama bin laden. Saudi support all terrorism group in secret. who is going to trust Saudi

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs