Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Obama authorizes secret US support for Syrian rebels - Reuters


U.S. President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV
http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/253946.html

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. Reuters

FACTS & FIGURES


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 centre" is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles (100 km) 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 presence. thestar.com

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. thestar.com

NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as MANPADs, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey. thestar.com

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. thestar.com

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued a waiver to an American group that supports the Free Syrian Army, authorizing it to provide logistical and financial support to Syrian rebel militias, reports Al-Monitor. antiwar.com

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) last week sent the waiver to Brian Sayers, of the Syrian Support Group, which describes itself as "a United States-based non-profit organization committed to supporting the Free Syrian Army." antiwar.com

One Syrian source told Al-Monitor that the group's aim is "to help turn the FSA into a more organized entity that could receive intelligence and other assistance from Western security agencies." The U.S. seems to be outsourcing the task of beefing up the rebel militias and making them look good enough on paper to be eligible for more substantial U.S. support. antiwar.com

Up to now, the U.S. has been providing communications gear and other non-lethal aid as well as facilitating the delivery of weapons from allied Arab governments in the Persian Gulf and from Turkey. antiwar.com


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