Congress delays aid to Syrian rebels by restricting funds

mccain-rebelsIn a decision that is getting little play in the media, lawmakers moved last month to block President Obama from arming Syrian rebels in what is turning out to be little more than a sectarian civil war.

House and Senate Intelligence panel members have voted to prevent the arming of the rebels by placing severe restrictions on available funding, committee insiders told The Hill.

The concern of many on Capitol Hill is that the administration plan would let weapons fall into the hands of terrorist groups, such as the many linked to al Qaeda, The Hill noted. The article further reports:

The exact nature of the restrictions is unknown because the committees voted privately on the basis of classified information. What is known is that the restrictions are sufficient to prevent the administration from delivering arms as planned, according to a source familiar with the actions.

The committee “voted to allow them to make some movement on this, but it’s restricted,” said one Senate panel insider, who declined to elaborate on the total aid or the restrictions added by the Intelligence panels, which both met again on Tuesday. “It was a very restrictive amount.”

Reuters reported Monday that 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.

You may recall that U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in support of the effort to increase military aid to the rebels, made a surprise trip to Syria in late May to downplay the fears that Islamic extremists are among the fighters.

He told CNN’s Anderson Cooper afterwards: ”We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people.”

While in Syria to drive home this point, McCain posed for what would prove to be an embarrassing photograph with some of the “right people,” as it was later determined that two of the people in the photo where behind the kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims.

The Obama administration stands by its plan to aid the rebels, but lawmakers say they need more evidence that it has thought the plan all the way through.

“We don’t have a clear picture of what the decision is by the administration,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an ex-officio member of the Intelligence panel.

All in all, is it possible that common sense is prevailing? In Washington, D.C.?

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Tom Tillison

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