US President Barack Obama is reportedly continuing his plan to arm the Syrian rebels after his administration was able to ease some congressional concerns.
Officials made the announcement on Monday in response to the president’s request to offer military aid to the Syrian rebels, as long as the groups had first been vetted.
The announcement by the Obama administration came after two years of hesitation toward directly arming the rebels, reports Reuters. The Syrian conflict has killed almost 100,000 people and caused sectarian tensions to escalate in the Middle East.
While the US has previously supplied humanitarian aid to rebel groups, providing weapons and training would be a completely different matter. Both Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees expressed concerns that the weapons could end up in the wrong hands, despite a strict vetting process.
While the Syrian rebels were initially made up of several different groups secular and religious, Islamist militants like the al Nusra Front have started to take control. There was concern that the weapons could fall into their hands and eventually be used against the US and other allies, according to CNN.
But the hold-up started to fail when the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed during a closed-door meeting to allow the administration’s plans to continue. However, it sought updates during the operation. And the House committee followed by giving its cautious approval soon after.
But House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers stated, “It is important to note that there are still strong reservations. We got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration’s plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations.”
But there is still the issue of cost associated with arming the Syrian rebels. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey stated on Monday that US military involvement in Syria would likely cost the country billions of dollars.
But despite the potential cost, legislators like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have long advocated military intervention in Syria. McCain last month called for the United States to impose a no-fly zone over Syria by cratering runways and enforcing the restrictions with Patriot missiles.
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