[Marxism] Reuters: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels
stansfieldsmith at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 3 20:59:09 MDT 2012
Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels
* http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/01/us-usa-syria-obama-order-idUSBRE8701OK20120801WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 1,
2012 5:58pm EDT WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack
Obama has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to
depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government, U.S. sources
familiar with the matter said.
Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence
"finding," broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support
that could help the rebels oust Assad.
This and other developments signal a shift toward growing, albeit still
circumscribed, support for Assad's armed opponents - a shift that intensified
following last month's failure of the U.N. Security Council to agree on tougher
sanctions against the Damascus government.
The White House is for now apparently stopping short of giving the rebels
lethal weapons, even as some U.S. allies do just that.
But U.S. and European officials have said that there have been noticeable
improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the
past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the
rebels by Western officials, who previously characterized Assad's opponents as a
disorganized, almost chaotic, rabble.
Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action
not previously reported, could not be determined.
The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be
providing also is unclear.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment.
A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the
presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command
center operated by Turkey and its allies.
Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital
military and communications support to Assad's opponents.
This "nerve center" is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles
from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where
U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial
Turkey's moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad's departure
with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former U.S.
government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with
training and possibly equipment.
European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar
were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the
Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad's
On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly
two dozen surface-to-air missiles, weapons that could be used against Assad's
helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Syrian government armed forces have
employed such air power more extensively in recent days.
NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been
delivered to the rebels via Turkey.
On Wednesday, however, Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the Free Syrian
Army, denied the NBC report, telling the Arabic-language TV network Al-Arabiya
that the group had "not obtained any such weapons at all." U.S. government
sources said they could not confirm the MANPADs deliveries, but could not rule
them out either.
Current and former U.S. and European officials previously said that weapons
supplies, which were being organized and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia,
were largely limited to guns and a limited number of anti-tank weapons, such as
Indications are that U.S. agencies have not been involved in providing
weapons to Assad's opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a
supplement, known as a "memorandum of notification, to his initial broad
Further such memoranda would have to be signed by Obama to authorize other
specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels.
Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive
authorizing greater U.S. covert assistance to Syrian rebels. It was unclear at
that time whether Obama had signed it.
Separately from the president's secret order, the Obama administration has
stated publicly that it is providing some backing for Assad's
The State Department said on Wednesday the U.S. government had set aside a
total of $25 million for "non-lethal" assistance to the Syrian opposition. A
U.S. official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including
The State Department also says the United States has set aside $64 million in
humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the
World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury confirmed it had granted authorization
to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of one of the most active
rebel factions, the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the
rebel group's behalf. The authorization was first reported on Friday by
Al-Monitor, a Middle East news and commentary website.
Last year, when rebels began organizing themselves to challenge the rule of
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Obama also signed an initial "finding" broadly
authorizing secret U.S. backing for them. But the president moved cautiously in
authorizing specific measures to support them.
Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey
Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and
have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad's
Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the
many rebel groups.
Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and
numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al Qaeda or its
affiliates, have been growing among Assad's opponents.
U.S. and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not
believe the militants' role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.
While U.S. and allied government experts believe that the Syrian rebels have
been making some progress against Assad's forces lately, most believe the
conflict is nowhere near resolution, and could go on for
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