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Syrian rebels: ‘not a single bullet’ from the US has arrived

free syrian army fightersThe debate between Congress and the White House on arming the Syrian rebels reflected general American reluctance to take a side in a civil war whose death toll will soon surpass the total number of U.S. troops killed in all the nation’s conflicts since World War II.

The potential delivery of U.S. light arms and ammunition, announced by the White House on June 13, was further complicated by fighting between the rebel factions trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have been on the offensive with support from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

The last United Nations report on casualties in Syria at the end of April put the death toll at 93,000, and human rights groups now say that the number killed has passed 100,000. Sen. John McCain , R-Ariz., and other lawmakers in favor of sending heavy weaponry to the rebels and imposing a no-fly zone now routinely use the 100,000 figure.

Through last week, the total of U.S. war deaths since World War II was 101,892, according to Defense Department statistics — from Korea (36,574), Vietnam (58,220), the Gulf War (383), Iraq (4,475) and the ongoing war in Afghanistan (2,240).

The U.S. had repeatedly rejected Syrian opposition pleas for weaponry, but the White House reversed course last month after the CIA said that “small scale” use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime had been verified.

Small arms and ammunition would now be supplied to “moderates” among the Syrian rebels, but the reluctance of the White House to be seen as a major player in yet another Middle East war was evident in the method of the announcement.

President Obama did not make the announcement, nor did Secretary of State John Kerry or Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Instead, it was left to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes to explain what was a major policy change for the U.S. in a late-afternoon conference call with reporters, hardly the usual format for such a decision.

“The president has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” Rhodes said.

Four days later, at an economic summit in Northern Ireland, Russian President rejected Obama’s plea to stop supporting Assad.

“Our opinions do not coincide,” Putin said with Obama sitting next to him.

The White House said initially that arms would be funneled to the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, led by a Syrian army defector, Gen. Salim Idriss

The U.S. also appeared to be setting up a conduit for the CIA to deliver the arms by leaving behind several hundred troops, F-16 attack aircraft and Patriot missile batteries in Jordan at the conclusion of a recent training exercise. However, Syrian opposition leaders last week said that “not a single bullet” from the Americans has yet arrived.

In a series of press briefings last week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration wanted to consult with Congress before delivering arms, although there was nothing in the law under the Foreign Assistance Act barring the U.S. from arming the rebels.

“Well, as I said earlier, in keeping with the president’s announcement of our stepped-up assistance to the Supreme Military Council, we are going to consult with Congress on these matters, and we intend to provide that stepped-up assistance,” Carney said.

When asked for a delivery date on arms, Carney said: “I don’t have any more details on that for you, but we were not bluffing. The president was very serious, as I think he made clear. And I think that — well, I’ll just say that we’ll continue to consult with Congress on this matter because it’s very important.”

Israel’s apparent growing involvement has added to the volatile mix. Under Tel Aviv’s long-standing policy, Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for two airstrikes in recent months aimed at arms shipments for Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the same stance Sunday on a reported strike last week against a Syrian navy barracks near the port of Latakia where Yakhont anti-ship missiles bound for Hezbollah allegedly were stored.

On the CBS’ “Face the Nation” program Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel is blamed “every time something happens in the Middle East,” but he added that Israel was determined to “prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hezbollah,” the Lebanon-based Shia group whose fighters have bolstered the ranks of Assad’s forces.

Since the June 13 U.S. policy change, the rift between the Syrian rebel “moderates” and hard-line factions with links to al-Qaida has widened. American public opinion polls show an increasing wariness of involvement in the civil war, and grisly videos showing savage acts by purported rebels has caused general confusion among the western world about who the “good guys” are in the conflict.

Last week, the Free Syrian Army charged that another rebel faction calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had assassinated FSA commander Kamal Hamami. FSA leaders vowed revenge.

According to a Pew Research Center poll earlier this month, about 70 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. and its allies sending arms and military supplies to anti-government groups in Syria.

Military.com

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  • 5thDrawer

    The USA Congress talks the talk … But it seems still sends money to those in real need.
    Personally, I think the FSA should be proud of what they have accomplished on their own – even if they would like some help, there is a better feeling of accomplishment when you have done it alone. That fact will help them in the future even if they do not realize it now.

  • 5thDrawer

    The USA Congress talks the talk …

  • man-o-war

    How much have the gulf countries given to syria?

    Excerpt from The Independent article “Syrian aid in crisis as Gulf states renege on promises”, May 5, 2013

    “Using databases managed by the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs – which records reported international aid, including NGOs, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and private bilateral donations – the pledges made in Kuwait can be measured against what has since been contributed.

    Saudi Arabia pledged $78m. As of 1 May, the kingdom was recorded as contributing $21.6m. The United Arab Emirates pledged $300m. It has given $18.4m. Qatar, which will spend tens of billions hosting the 2022 football World Cup, pledged $100m to the UN effort. It is recorded as delivering $2.7m. Bahrain, which last month hosted a Formula One grand prix at a recently built $2bn circuit, pledged $20m. There has been no recorded aid given since. Iraq pledged $10m in Kuwait; nothing has yet been recorded in aid delivered.

    Alarm bells began ringing at the UN in March when only a fifth of the total pledges made at Kuwait had been delivered. Since then the United States has delivered $219m, with the UK adding $129m.”

    • 5thDrawer

      Man-O …. I had posted this before … but we keep hoping someone notices. ;-)

      • man-o-war

        Yeah, those arab countries are a real joke. They pretend to care when it matters and when nobody is looking they turn their back on the people they pledged to help. It appears the great satan is giving the most and at the same time receiving the most flack for not helping enough. I guess some of the funding the gulf states provided is under the table and not represented here. You can’t put a price on the fighters they have provided and all the weapons provided have to be kept hidden because of legality issues.

        • 5thDrawer

          Yes … and someone keeps making refugees too.
          The LEB-hospitals (mostly private) can’t keep up to the needs, and even cut doctor-pay I heard. In Tripoli, I’m sure even nurses can remove bullets by this time … it’s the ‘freebie’ service … and anyone can work a needle and thread. ;-)

          Perhaps interesting … although we can understand why since it’s in need itself … Egypt promised nothing – might be under the ‘various’ line, but I doubt it.
          But better to NOT promise, if you’re not going to deliver. The UN expects the income, plans for the aid and where it is to go, and then ends up holding the short end of the stick with various IDIOTS dumping on them because they can’t help.

  • man-o-war

    How much have the gulf countries given to syria?

    Excerpt from The Independent article “Syrian aid in crisis as Gulf states renege on promises”, May 5, 2013

    “Using databases managed by the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs – which records reported international aid, including NGOs, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and private bilateral donations – the pledges made in Kuwait can be measured against what has since been contributed.

    Saudi Arabia pledged $78m. As of 1 May, the kingdom was recorded as contributing $21.6m. The United Arab Emirates pledged $300m. It has given $18.4m. Qatar, which will spend tens of billions hosting the 2022 football World Cup, pledged $100m to the UN effort. It is recorded as delivering $2.7m. Bahrain, which last month hosted a Formula One grand prix at a recently built $2bn circuit, pledged $20m. There has been no recorded aid given since. Iraq pledged $10m in Kuwait; nothing has yet been recorded in aid delivered.

    Alarm bells began ringing at the UN in March when only a fifth of the total pledges made at Kuwait had been delivered. Since then the United States has delivered $219m, with the UK adding $129m.”

    • 5thDrawer

      Man-O …. I had posted this before … but we keep hoping someone notices. ;-)

      • man-o-war

        Yeah, those arab countries are a real joke. They pretend to care when it matters and when nobody is looking they turn their back on the people they pledged to help. It appears the great satan is giving the most and at the same time receiving the most flack for not helping enough. I guess some of the funding the gulf states provided is under the table and not represented here. You can’t put a price on the fighters they have provided and all the weapons provided have to be kept hidden because of legality issues.

        • 5thDrawer

          Yes … and someone keeps making refugees too.
          The LEB-hospitals (mostly private) can’t keep up to the needs, and even cut doctor-pay I heard. In Tripoli, I’m sure even nurses can remove bullets by this time … it’s the ‘freebie’ service.