US tweaks Syria policy after Western backed rebels suffer setback to Islamists

Suspension of assistance into country's north ceases in first such move since US began involvement in theater.

Syrian Islamist fighters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian Islamist fighters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- The fundamentalist Islamic Front in Syria seized the headquarters and warehouses of the Western-backed Supreme Military Council of opposition forces this week, prompting the United States to suspend the delivery of all non-lethal assistance into the country's north.
The suspension— which marks the first rollback since US President Barack Obama first agreed to involve the US in the Syrian war— was announced by the State Department on Wednesday, and includes food and non-military technologies, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Humanitarian assistance will not be effected.
The reports have "obviously concerned" the Obama administration, a State Department official told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
"As a result of this situation, the United States has suspended all further deliveries of non-lethal assistance into northern Syria. The humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people is not impacted by this suspension," the official said.
"We are working with General Idriss and the SMC to inventory the status of U.S. equipment and supplies provided to the SMC," the official added.
"Our support for the SMC is well known and longstanding. And, in general, we have long urged unity on the battlefield under the SMC and General Idriss."
Infighting among Syrian rebels has weakened their efforts to bring down President Bashar Assad in the conflict which began as peaceful protests against his rule in March 2011 and has descended into civil war.
Psaki said that the administration is still evaluating what happened that allowed the Islamic Front—which is Islamist but does not affiliate with al Qaeda and is not listed as a terrorist group by the US — to seize these materials.
"It is not a suspension of aid, or a holding back of aid," Psaki said, given the continued delivery of assistance to the rest of the country. " This has nothing to do with our support for the SMC."
And yet there have been other similar incidents with the SMC, Psaki acknowledged.
The US continues to evaluate its relationship with dozens of other opposition groups fighting for the overthrow of Syrian president Bashar Assad.
The US is still discussing the impact of the raid on stockpiled goods, Psaki added.
Reuters contributed to this report.