US congressional hurdles lifted on arming Syrian rebels

Obama to move forward with plan for US to arm struggling Syrian rebels after some congressional concerns eased.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
July 23, 2013 23:09
1 minute read.
Syrian Rebels

Syrian Rebels 521. (photo credit: GORAN TOMASEVIC)

WASHINGTON – Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has provided Congress with a letter that details the dramatic cost of military options if President Barack Obama chooses to intervene in Syria’s civil war.

A no-fly zone would cost roughly $1 billion a month, would risk US aircraft and airmen, and would ultimately fail to topple Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad, Dempsey wrote.

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To protect refugee zones, chemical weapons sites or both, thousands of US ground troops and a fullscale invasion would be sufficient, Dempsey said.

Nothing short of war would be required, he asserted, the success of which would not be guaranteed.

US intervention “could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control,” the military chief wrote in his letter to Sen. Carl Levin (DMichigan), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The public letter comes after leaked White House conversations first revealed Dempsey’s reluctance to intervene in the conflict, as US Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for strikes on Syrian air strips. During those deliberations, Obama chose to provide trusted rebel groups only with light arms and ammunition.

Congress has stalled the shipment of those arms due to apprehension by some members that they would wind up with the wrong rebel groups. But on Tuesday, Mike Rogers (RMichigan), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced approval of the plan.

“We got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration’s plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations,” Rogers said.


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