News / Middle East

Official: Aid Decision to Result in Dramatic Increase in US Support for Syrian Rebels

Deputy National Security adviser Ben Rhodes gestures as he speaks about President Barack Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels, during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, June 14, 2013.Deputy National Security adviser Ben Rhodes gestures as he speaks about President Barack Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels, during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, June 14, 2013.
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Deputy National Security adviser Ben Rhodes gestures as he speaks about President Barack Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels, during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, June 14, 2013.
Deputy National Security adviser Ben Rhodes gestures as he speaks about President Barack Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels, during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, June 14, 2013.
Kent Klein
White House officials say U.S. President Barack Obama spent several weeks deciding whether to send military aid to Syrian opposition groups, and that it will take time for the supplies to reach them. The president will discuss the issue with allies at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland next week.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the president’s decision will dramatically increase U.S. support for Syria’s opposition forces. He told reporters Friday that Obama was influenced by the mounting evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is using chemical weapons, and by rising involvement from outside groups.

“Those are decisions that he has made over the course of the last several weeks, particularly as our assessment of chemical weapons use firmed up, and as we saw a deteriorating situation in general, with outside actors like Iran and Hezbollah getting involved. So this has been a steady increase for us,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes said the United States has been working for about six months to build relationships with opposition groups Washington sees as moderate, such as the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Supreme Military Council. He said those efforts will help guard against U.S. weapons falling into the hands of extremists.

“That is important, because it both allows you to get assistance into the hands of those who need it, but it also allows you to have protections to try to keep assistance from reaching those who we do not want to receive materiel, for instance, al-Nusra, which has generally been the most extremist element of the opposition,” said Rhodes.

About 93,000 people have been reported killed in the Syrian conflict. U.S. intelligence estimates that about 100 to 150 of them were killed by chemical weapons, and the White House says the use of those weapons violates international norms.

Rhodes said Obama will discuss the U.S. response to Syria with allies at the Group of Eight summit, which starts Monday in Northern Ireland.

Russia is the only G8 member that supports the Assad government, which could lead to a contentious discussion when Obama meets separately Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rhodes said Obama will try to convince the Russian leader that supporting Assad is not in his country’s interests.

“They do not want to see a downward spiral. They do not want to see a chaotic and unstable situation in the region. They do not want to see extremist elements gaining a foothold in this area. And the point that we have made to Russia is that the current course, in which Assad is not being appropriately pressured to step down from power by those who continue to support him in the international community, is bringing about those very outcomes,” he said.

Rhodes said Obama and Putin are expected to find common ground on Afghanistan, counterterrorism and other issues.

After the G8 summit, Obama will travel to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and speak at the Brandenburg Gate.

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by: Dr. Malek Towghi /Tauqee from: Michigan, USA
June 15, 2013 3:03 PM
Now that a moderate has won the Iranian presidential election, chances of a much-needed US-Iran reconciliation have increased. By adopting a hawkish policy concerning Syria, the US will be jeopardizing these chances.

by: Charlie from: california
June 14, 2013 7:25 PM
Wouldn't it be better for the Syrians to let one side win it so people can go home again and start rebuilding. Does the US government think there is a credible alternative to Assad given the fragility of the Syrian state, so much like Iraq's. And what happens to the millions of Christians and Alewites if the Sunnis come to power? Can we expect them to share our over-crowded freeways with the 300 million already here in the states.

by: Scott from: USA
June 14, 2013 7:16 PM
Why is no one reporting even the UN say's this is a Hugh mistake to send arms, this is like pouring gasoline on a burning fire, what good will it do but inflame the entire region, We ship them Arms they turn around and shoot back at us, Why should the USA meddle over there, nothing good will come about, let other get involved if they want to but not the USA, What has Syria ever done to us, well nothing at all, It is there Civil War and we do not have any business to get involved, all this is going to do is bring even more hatred of America, and this nonsense of no boots on the ground is BS we will be there within a year or sooner.

by: releggneh from: somewhere
June 14, 2013 6:40 PM
Don't have money for our military, but can help out the Al-Qaida supporters. Why don't this shock me.

by: LocoJoe from: NY
June 14, 2013 6:04 PM
The time to arm the rebels would have been 18 months ago. Before Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda appeared and 90 or so thousand people were killed. We have missed our opportunity to do any thing positive over there because of indecision and a fear of upsetting up Russia. So now we have no idea who we are arming. We should stay out of this now. Have we learned any thing from the past? History is repeating its self but this time they wont be able blame Bush.

by: Buck Mast from: Tennessee
June 14, 2013 5:47 PM
How in the world can our government be so stupid?.We should NOT get involved in Syria,The rebels are just as evil and wicked as Assad's government and if the rebels win they will turn on us like a rabid dog

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