President Obama is encouraged by the new Syrian opposition coalition, he told reporters on Wednesday, but he is not ready to directly arm the Syrian rebels.
The Obama administration led the effort to establish a new Syrian coalition, hand-picking people to convene in Qatar this month and pretend the opposition is unified. But obstacles, like links with Islamic jihadists, still remain.
Obama said he believes the new council is “a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people,” but he said “we’re not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile.”
Obama said the US has not made the decision to directly arm the rebels. However, this was misleading because the CIA is already participating in facilitating the delivery of weapons from US allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Despite administration claims about a “vetting process” for those who receive these weapons, the New York Times published an article in October confirming that “[m]ost of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists.”
Still, the Obama administration has in stopped short of providing US arms directly to the rebels, many of whom continue to commit war crimes. The administration has also all but ruled out direct military intervention like no-fly zones or invasion.
“[A]nyone looking for hints that [Obama] supported recognition of the opposition or arming them now was disappointed,” writes Daniel Larison at The American Conservative. “Things could change in the new year, but so far it appears that the US is resisting pressure to be pulled into yet another foreign conflict.”
“There appears to be a real aversion to a new commitment in the region, and now that Petraeus is out there is one less advocate for greater involvement inside the administration,” Larison added.
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