The United States is considering sending direct aid to the Syrian rebels currently trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The direct aid would include non-lethal military support, including training on chemical weapons security and giving equipment like combat armor.
The US State Department has not commented on the possibility and the specifics have reportedly not yet been decided, according to CBS News.
Secretary of State John Kerry publicly endorsed the idea of aiding the rebels directly on Tuesday. He was speaking in front of a group in Berlin. He explained:
“If the president of the country decides he isn’t going to come and negotiate and he’s just going to kill his people, then you at least need to provide some support for the people who are fighting.”
The Syrian Opposition is expected to attend a conference on Thursday in Rome, along with dozens of other countries, to discuss a resolution to the Syrian conflict.
The Free Syrian Army’s commander in chief, General Salim Idris, also made a plea for financial support in a YouTube video. He asked that Syrian expatriates living other countries provide financial help to the FSA, because they are not yet able to pay the wages of rebel fighters.
Yahoo! News notes that a decision on expanding the assistance given to Assad’s opposition is expected by the time Kerry arrives at the international conference on Thursday. France, the country’s former colonial ruler, has been in support of more direct aid to the rebels.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated, “We agree all of us on the fact that Mr. Bashar al-Assad has to quit.” Unfortunately for the opposition, Assad has said he will not quit unless the Syrian people vote him out of office in the 2014 election.
The Obama administration has held off arming the Syrian opposition so far out of fears that the military equipment will fall into the hands of radical Islamists. The Islamists have become a huge factor in the fight to oust Assad.
The US fears that this material could be used in future terrorist attacks or strikes on Israel. The administration’s change in stance also comes as it looks to ramp up pressure on Assad to step down. Kerry added on Tuesday:
“We are examining and developing ways to accelerate the political transition that the Syrian people want and deserve. We need to help them to deliver basic services and to protect the legitimate institutions of the state.”
Officials have suggested the the US will provide direct aid in the form of money, instead of weapons and body armor. They have so far limited their assistance to funding communications and other logistical equipment. They also helped formalize a liaison office and invited the opposition coalition leader, Mouaz al-Khatib, to visit the United States and discuss the war.
The Syrian rebels currently get the majority of their arms from capturing government bases. Is is also believed that they are receiving help from Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
The US State Department has not finalized what direct aid, if any, they will provide to the Syrian rebels.