Obama signs order supporting Syria's rebels, reports say

Falldog

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Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorising US support for Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the Assad government, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Obama's order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence finding broadly permits the CIA and other US agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust President Bashar al-Assad.

This and other developments point to growing support for Assad's armed opponents – which has intensified following last month's failure by the UN security council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of arming the rebels directly, even though some US allies are.

But US 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 characterised Assad's opponents as a disorganised, chaotic, rabble.

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorisation, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.

The full extent of support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment.

A government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the US was collaborating with a secret command centre operated by Turkey and its allies.

Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct military and communications support to Assad's opponents.

This "nerve centre" is in Adana, a city about 60 miles (100km) from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, an American air base where US military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

Turkey's government has been demanding Assad's departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former US government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.

European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad's departure.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles. Syrian government armed forces have employed air power more extensively in recent days.

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

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". US government sources said they could not confirm the Manpads deliveries, but could not rule them out either.

Current and former US and European officials previously said that weapons supplies, which were being organised and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were largely limited to guns and a few anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas.

Indications are that US agencies have not been involved in providing weapons to Assad's opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a supplement, known as a memorandum of notification, to his initial broad intelligence finding.

Further such memorandums would have to be signed by him to authorise other specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels.

Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive authorising greater US covert assistance to rebels. It was unclear at that time whether Obama had signed it.

Separately from the president's secret order, the Obama administration has said it is providing some backing for Assad's opponents.

The state department said on Wednesday the US government had set aside a total of $25m (£16m) for "non-lethal" assistance to the Syrian opposition. A US official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including encrypted radios.

The state department also says the US has set aside $64m in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid agencies.

Also on Wednesday, the US treasury confirmed it had granted authorisation to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the rebel group's behalf. The authorisation was first reported on Friday by al-Monitor, a Middle East news website.

Last year, when Libyan rebels began organising themselves to challenge the rule of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Obama signed an initial "finding" broadly authorising secret US backing for them. But the president moved cautiously in authorising specific measures to support them.

Some US lawmakers, such as the Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticised Obama for moving too slowly to assist the Syrian rebels and have suggested the US government become directly involved in arming Assad's opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al-Qaida, or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad's opponents.

US and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not believe the militants' role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/02/obama-order-supporting-syria-rebels?newsfeed=true
 

Von Maestro

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Mar 12, 2010
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Can this White House keep ONE FUCKING SECRET?!?

I don't even want to get into the debate about whether or not this is a good move, I just want them to stop treating sensitive national security issues like they are standard media talking points.
 

Party Rooster

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Can this White House keep ONE FUCKING SECRET?!?

I don't even want to get into the debate about whether or not this is a good move, I just want them to stop treating sensitive national security issues like they are standard media talking points.
That was the first thing I was thinking as well. It seems to me more just excellent reporter sleuthing based on the other denials and vagueries in the article. He had to authorize this via a presidential finding so it could have been leaked by any number of people or staffers on the congressional intelligence committees. The right has been hammering him pretty hard for months now for a lack of action on the Syrian issue, seems he would have "leaked" this a lot sooner.

Well...this is kind of a stab in the dark...but I suspect this White House and President has plenty of secrets. :icon_cool
Fucking LOL.