Derechos | Equipo Nizkor
Kerry Says U.S. Backs Mideast Efforts to Arm Syrian Rebels
Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the Obama administration supported efforts by Middle Eastern nations to send arms to the opposition in Syria, and had had discussions with foreign officials to emphasize that those arms should go to moderate forces rather than to extremists.
"We had a discussion about the types of weapons that are being transferred and by whom," Mr. Kerry said after a meeting with the prime minister of Qatar, which has been involved in arming the Syrian opposition. "We did discuss the question of the ability to try to guarantee that it's going to the right people and to the moderate Syrian opposition coalition."
Mr. Kerry's comments were the most direct public affirmation to date that the Obama administration was supporting efforts to arm the Syrian resistance, provided that the arms are sent by other nations and that care is taken to direct them to factions the United States supports.
His comments also signal a more transparent effort to coordinate military assistance for the opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr. Kerry said the Obama administration had gained new confidence in recent months that the Syrian opposition coalition could minimize the risk that weapons would fall into hostile hands.
He asserted that there was no need for the United States to provide arms now because other nations were already sending enough, but did not rule out the option. The arms supply from other nations "informs the president's decision about what is needed, and what the United States is prepared to do at this point at time," he said.
Under a covert program, the Central Intelligence Agency has been training Syrian opposition fighters in Jordan, but has stopped short of giving the rebels arms.
Last week, Mr. Kerry announced a program to provide to provide food and medical supplies to the military wing of the opposition.
The United States also supports a plan by Britain to supply the armed Syrian opposition with nonlethal equipment, which might include vehicles, night vision equipment and body armor. The British government is expected to announce that assistance soon.
Persian Gulf nations have been sending military and other aid to the rebels for more than a year, but weapons shipments to the rebels increased significantly in the last few months as Saudi Arabia financed the purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia, which were sent to the rebels via Jordan.
Mr. Kerry asserted that the United States was not directing the arms shipments by other nations; rather, he suggested, the United States was consulting with them about what was being provided and to whom. "I don't think the United States is engaged in a specific allotment process," he added. "But obviously we are aware."
He spoke at a joint news conference here with the prime minister of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. The prime minister said he sensed a new openness on the part of the United States to the provision of military support to the Syrian opposition.
"There is a change in the international position and the American position," Sheik Hamad said. "They are talking about weapons. We hope that this had happened some time ago because this would have maybe lessened the death and destruction that took place in Syria."
A major question is whether these efforts will be enough to turn the tide against Mr. Assad. The flow of weapons has not stopped the Syrian military from firing Scud missiles at its opponents or bombing them.
[Source: By Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times, Doha, 05Mar13]
|This document has been published on 07Mar13 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|