Syria’s SNC Says It Won’t Let Weapons Reach Extremists


syrian national coalition logo 2The opposition Syrian National Coalition said it is committed to ensuring any weapons it receives won’t reach extremists fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

The coalition understands the concerns of the U.S. Congress and the American public, and has already introduced necessary measures to ensure “full and comprehensive vetting of all armed forces under our command” along with the Free Syrian Army, the group said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The group is seeking to allay concerns in Western countries reluctant to provide rebels with game-changing weapons for fear they would end up with radical Islamists. One such group is the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in December.

U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized the provision of small arms to the Syrian opposition. He has stopped short of backing air strikes against Assad’s forces, a no-fly zone over Syria or heavier weaponry to battle the regime’s tanks and aircraft, a U.S. official familiar with the decision said last month.

The “urgency of delivering these arms cannot be overstated” as the regime continues to attack “population centers at will,” the coalition said in the statement.

Syria’s civil war, which began with peaceful protests in March 2011, has killed more than 94,000 people, according to the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It has also driven hundreds of thousands of Syrians into neighboring countries.

“We will strictly enforce” controls to ensure weapons remain in the control of moderate opposition forces, the coalition said.