Congress Delaying U.S. Aid To Syrian Rebels Since Tide of War Turned Against Them

Exclusive: Congress delaying U.S. aid to Syrian rebels – sources

Reuters

Free Syrian Army fighters, holding their weapons, stand during military training north of Idlib July 7, 2013. Picture taken July 7, 2013. REUTERS/Abdalghne Karoof

Free Syrian Army fighters, holding their weapons, stand during military training north of Idlib July 7, 2013. Picture taken July 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Abdalghne Karoof

By Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON

(Reuters) – Congressional committees are holding up a plan to send U.S. weapons to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because of fears that such deliveries will not be decisive and the arms might end up in the hands of Islamist militants, five U.S. national security sources said.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees have expressed reservations behind closed doors at the effort by President Barack Obama’s administration to support the insurgents by sending them military hardware.

None of the military aid that the United States announced weeks ago has arrived in Syria, according to an official from an Arab country and Syrian opposition sources.

Democrats and Republicans on the committees worry that weapons could reach factions like the Nusra Front, which is one of the most effective rebel groups but has also been labeled by the United States as a front for al Qaeda in Iraq.

Committee members also want to hear more about the administration’s overall Syria policy, and about how it believes its arms plan will affect the situation on the ground, where Assad’s forces have made recent gains.

Funding that the administration advised the congressional committees it wanted to use to pay for arms deliveries to Assad’s opponents has been temporarily frozen, the sources said.

“As noted at the time we announced the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council, we will continue to consult closely with Congress on these matters,” Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said on Monday.

Technically, the administration does not need specific congressional approval either through public legislation or some kind of legislative sanction process to move ahead with the weapons plan. The president already has legal authority to order such shipments, several sources said.

However, under tacit rules observed by the executive branch and Congress on intelligence matters, administrations will not move ahead with programs like weapons deliveries to the Syrian opposition if one or both of the congressional intelligence committees express serious objections.

UNCONVINCED BY KERRY, CIA

Late last month, Secretary of State John Kerry and outgoing CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell briefed the intelligence committees in detail secretly about plans to arm the rebels in response to growing evidence that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons, the sources said.

After that briefing, members of both committees expressed dissatisfaction with the plan, the sources said.

Although initially the House committee voiced greater opposition than its Senate counterpart, after further consideration the Senate panel became concerned enough about the plan to write a letter to the administration raising questions about it, two of the sources said.

At the same time, the appropriations committees of both chambers, which also routinely review secret intelligence or military aid programs, raised doubts.

Syrian opposition sources and officials of governments in the region which support anti-Assad forces have begun to express puzzlement as to why new weapons shipments promised by Washington have not yet begun to arrive.

One Arab government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concern that the United States had only made the decision to provide weapons but had not yet determined exactly where to send them.

The White House announced in June that it would arm vetted groups of Syrian rebels, after two years of avoiding involvement in the civil war which has killed more than 100,000 people.

The only way the administration’s plan will move forward, said the sources, is if congressional committees can work out a deal with the administration to resolve their concerns.

Anti-Assad groups have been calling for more advanced weaponry since the government launched a new offensive in central Syria with the help of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Government forces are hammering the central city of Homs and have encircled rebel strongholds near the capital Damascus.

Over the weekend, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood said it felt “abandoned and disappointed” that the United States and Europe had failed to deliver promised military support to the rebels.

A source in Washington who is close to the Syrian rebels also said he knew of no U.S. military aid that had been delivered to them.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell and Mohammad Zargham)

Do Saudis and Gulf States Have Enough Extra Cash To Buy Peace and Disarmament from the Mehsud Tribe?

$8,000,000 for 325 units= $24,615 each

$24,615 x 45,000 displaced families from S. Waziristan = $1,107,675,000 for Wana area

[SEE: The Effort To Disarm and Develop South Waziristan ]

“The houses will be built in tribal areas of Kurram, Bajaur, South Waziristan and Mohmand”

ISLAMABAD, July 8: Saudi Arabia will build over 1,000 houses at a cost of $8 million for families displaced by militant attacks in tribal areas of the country. The project will be completed by the end of year.

The Saudi Fund Development (SFD) will finance the project and an agreement to this effect was signed on Monday which was attended by Chief Engineer Abdullah M. Al Shoaibi, Deputy Ambassador at Saudi Embassy Muhammad Nafa Al Madani and a representative of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Neil Wright.

The SFD official said at the ceremony that some 325 houses would be built in South Waziristan where around 45,000 families had been dislocated since the beginning of the security operations in 2008.

The Minister for States and Frontier Regions, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, was expected to attend the ceremony but he did not come.

The houses, it is learnt, will be given to returnees unable to rebuild their homes. The houses will be built in tribal areas of Kurram, Bajaur, South Waziristan and Mohmand agencies.

Mr Wright, speaking on the occasion, said: “People’s lives in tribal areas have been severely disrupted by security operations and they need help to rebuild and re-establish their normal lives.”

“The needs of returnees are considerable, especially at a time when donor support is shrinking due to evolving emergencies across the globe. At such a critical juncture, the SFD funding is highly appreciated. It will make a huge difference in providing solutions to the problems of returnees,” he added.

Mr Shoaibi said that the custodian of the two holy mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, was very concerned about the welfare of people in Pakistan during disasters and conflicts.

Commenting on the selection of beneficiaries, the SFD official said the houses were being constructed for all families, especially those without a male guardian.

Various need assessment surveys conducted by the UN and other humanitarian agencies indicate the conflict has had an adverse effect on shelters and communal infrastructure at villages in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

According to the UNHCR, 85 per cent of the houses have been destroyed in areas where people displaced by the conflict are now returning, while communal infrastructure such as basic health units, water sanitation and drainage system, schools and bridges remain in a highly dilapidated state.

APP adds: The UNCHR is helping the government in the return process of the displaced population to areas that had now been declared safe.

Obama Threatening To Do To Afghanistan What He Did To Iraq—LEAVE.

Obama Reportedly Considering Pulling All Troops Out Of Afghanistan
 

Amid rising tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. President Barack Obama is reportedly considering a “zero option” that would pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by 2014.

Citing American and European officials, the New York Times said Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of U.S. forces and removing all troops by the end of next year.

The news comes as Obama has reportedly grown frustrated with Karzai, who pulled out of talks with the U.S. on a long-term security agreement amid news of U.S. peace talks with the Taliban.

A video conference between Obama and Karzai designed to defuse the tensions ended badly, the New York Times cited American and Afghan officials as saying.

The Times said Karzai accused the U.S. of trying to negotiate a separate peace with both the Taliban and their backers in Pakistan, while Obama responded by pointing out the number of American lives that have been lost propping up Karzai’s government.

While the option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was previously seen as the worst-case scenario and a useful negotiating tool, the Times said the idea has become an alternative under serious consideration since the video conference.

“There’s always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option,” a senior Western official in Kabul told the Times. “It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path.”

However, the official told the Times he hoped some in the Karzai government were beginning to understand that the zero option was now a distinct possibility.

The situation is said to be increasingly similar to Iraq, where officials failed to reach an agreement on the U.S. leaving a small residual force, leading to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

Saudi Car Bomb In Hezbollah Neighborhood?

Car-bombing at Bir al-Abed suburb in southern Beirut, Part 1

Car-bombing at Bir al-Abed suburb in southern Beirut, Part 2

Car Bomb Near Hizbullah Center in Beirut’s Southern Suburbs 

naharnet

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية by Naharnet

  • W460
  • W460

A booby-trapped car exploded at a parking lot near a Hizbullah religious center in Beirut’s southern suburbs on Tuesday, causing casualties and extensive damage.

The blast went off near Islamic Cooperation Center in the area of Bir al-Abed.

The caretaker Health Minister, Ali Hassan Khalil, said 53 people were wounded. But 41 of them were discharged and the rest were being treated for non serious injuries.

Ambulances and fire engines, their sirens wailing, raced to the area and witnesses said casualties were rushed to the nearby Bahman and Rasoul al-Atham hospitals. People were seen running in the street away from the site of the explosion which set dozens of cars on fire.

The force of the blast shattered windows and caused serious damages to several nearby residential buildings, including cracks in their walls.

State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr tasked military police and forensic experts with carrying out the preliminary investigation, which said the explosives were packed in a Renault Rapid or a Nissan four-wheeler.

An army command statement said the military was probing the attack to find the perpetrators.

Some Syrian rebel groups have threatened to strike in Lebanon after Hizbullah joined Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops in their battle against opposition fighters.

But Hizbullah MP Ali Ammar told al-Manar that the blast was carried out by the supporters of the so-called American-Israeli project.

There attack “bears Israeli fingerprints,” he said as he inspected the damage.

“This is a message, but we will not bow,” said Ziad Waked, a municipal official speaking to al-Manar.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, who also inspected the scene along with acting Internal Security Forces chief Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, condemned the blast saying it was “an attempt to create Sunni-Shiite strife.”

But he stressed that neither sect would be dragged into discord, he said.

In May, two rockets slammed into a Hizbullah stronghold in south Beirut, wounding four people. The rockets struck hours after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed in a speech to help propel Assad to victory in Syria’s civil war.

Saudis gain amid Islamist setbacks

[SEE: Saudis Scramble To Help Obama Recover from Syrian Embarrassment, Blamed On Qatar]

Saudis gain amid Islamist setbacks

zawa

Saudis gain amid Islamist setbacks Photo Credit:Reuters/Ali Jarekji

(FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 7/8/13) 

   By Ellen Knickmeyer

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has gained the upper hand in a series of new power struggles in the region, strengthening the kingdom against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political movements emboldened since the Arab Spring revolutions.

Just as swiftly as popular uprisings brought to power the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic political blocs in several Middle East and North African countries, “what happened in Egypt . . . could be the beginning of the end of political Islam in the region,” Khalid al-Dakhail, an assistant professor of political sociology at King Saud University in Riyadh, said Sunday.

Late last week in Egypt, street protests and military ultimatums forced out the year-old government of President Mohammed Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood official elected after Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

Meanwhile, this weekend, Syria’s opposition elected as its leader a rebel, Ahmad Jarba, backed by Saudi Arabia and belonging to the powerful Shammari tribe that stretches across Syria and Iraq into Saudi Arabia. The Syrian rebels rejected a rival candidate pushed by Qatar, a wealthy Gulf state that has supported extremist Islamic groups. Saudi Arabia sees those groups as a future threat to Saudi and regional security.

The week’s political victories by Saudi Arabia also empower Saudi ally Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian authority president, and his Fatah party over Hamas, the Islamist party elected to power in Gaza.

However, an influential Saudi cleric warned of danger if Islamic movements begin to despair of bringing about political change peacefully. “The Arab revolutions weakened the project of violence. And the overthrow of Egyptian reform has pumped new energy into it,” Salman al-Odah, a Saudi cleric who has pressed the Saudi government for better social conditions, said in a tweet Saturday to his more than 3 million followers, via his verified Twitter account.

But Mr. Dakhail, the Saudi academic, brushed off claims Saudi Arabia is seeking to reverse the region’s revolutions. “How can you roll back the clock in Tunisia, in Egypt? Hosni Mubarak is gone, and he’s not coming back,” he said. Gulf monarchies “realize they cannot do that,” he added.

Arab governments historically have sought to neutralize the Brotherhood and other political Islamic movements, fearing the blocs could challenge Arab rulers for power. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates initially had sought to work with Egypt’s new Islamist leaders.

President Morsi had made Saudi Arabia his first foreign stop as president. He offended the Emirates, however, by ignoring that kingdom’s standing invitation to visit, said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science at Emirates University.

When Egypt’s protests last week ended the highest rise of any modern Islamist political movement, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, near 90, rushed to congratulate Egypt’s military.

In an effusive telegram to Egyptian defense chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al Sisi, the Saudi king reached out figuratively, “firmly shaking the hand” that had saved Egypt “from a tunnel whose extent and outcome only God knows,” according to the Saudi state press agency.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

08-07-13 0439GMT


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