WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama can now go ahead with a plan to arm the struggling Syrian rebels, after several congressional concerns have been alleviated, House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said.
The Obama administration announced last month that it would offer military aid to vetted groups of Syrian rebels.
But both Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees had expressed worries that the arms could end up in the hands of Islamist militants in Syria like the Nusra Front, and would not be enough to tip the balance of the civil war against President Bashar al-Assad anyway.
“We believe we are in a position that the administration can move forward,” Rogers said.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s members who had questioned the wisdom of arming the insurgents had earlier tentatively agreed that the administration could go ahead with its plans, but sought updates as the covert effort proceeded.
Now, the House committee has also given at least a cautious go-ahead.
“It is important to note that there are still strong reservations,” Rogers said.
“We got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration’s plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations,” he added.
Supporters of the rebels hope the deliveries of US-provided arms will start in August.
They hope for “a large number of small weapons” such as rifles and basic anti-tank weapons, said Louay Sakka, a co-founder of the Syrian Support Group, which backs the Free Syrian Army fighting Assad.