Syrian Rebels Offered Expanded US Support

The US Department of State provided details yesterday regarding the diplomatic support, humanitarian assistance, and nonlethal assistance previously offered to Syrian rebels. This follows Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement in Rome last Thursday.

The US will offer diplomatic support to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, a coalition of various groups resisting the government of Bashar al-Assad. The coalition formed in November of last year.

“We are working with other nations and with international organizations to further isolate the regime, both politically and through comprehensive sanctions, and to support the Syrian people’s calls for President Assad to step down,” the State Department announced on its website.

The US is extending to Syria $385 million in humanitarian assistance alongside $115 million in nonlethal support to the Syrian rebels. The nonlethal support will help provide essential services and rule of law to liberated areas of Syria.

Other support includes training grassroots activists from all over the country and strengthening their ability to mobilize and inform citizens. The US and the international community will help community radio stations provide information to refugees and spur the growth of a network of citizen journalists, bloggers, and cyber-activists.

The State Department describes its aims as follows:

“This support enhances the information security of Syrian activists, human rights organizations, and media outlets and empowers women leaders to play a more active role in transition planning. Activities sponsored by these funds enable local councils and grassroots organizations to respond to the needs of their communities and promotes constructive participation in the country’s political transition.”

The United Nations estimates that over 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the two years since the country descended into civil war. Nearly a million Syrians have registered as refugees in other countries or are attempting to do so. Over 2 million people remain displaced within the country, and 4 million are in need of assistance.

The Syrian civil war began in March of 2011 when nationwide protests broke out as part of the Arab Spring movement. Protesters sought the resignation of President Assad, who responded with lethal military force. Protests grew into armed rebellion, and conflict has taken place ever since. The international community has viewed the situation in Syria as a humanitarian crisis but has struggled over decisions to offer aid to Syrian rebels and what form that aid should take.

[Image via Sadik Gulec /]

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