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AMERICAS > US halts aid to Syrian rebels

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A picture taken on October 18, 2013, shows a rebel fighter standing behind a broken television in the Salaheddin district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO

A picture taken on October 18, 2013, shows a rebel fighter standing behind a broken television in the Salaheddin district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO

The United States has cut off northern Syrian moderate rebel groups from non-lethal aid, with an al-Qaeda advance in northern Syria physically blocking the aid’s dispersal, as the Obama administration continues to ‘disengage’ itself from Syria.

Daily Hürriyet’s Washington representative, Tolga Tanış, reported that the Obama administration commenced its ‘disengagement’ from Syria on Oct. 2, laying out three conditions to the moderate rebels, should they wish for the resumption of aid.

A joint U.S.-Russia plan on the chemical disarmament of Syria and clashes between the Western-Arab-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and al-Qaeda-linked rebels known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) factored into the halting of aid to the rebels. Turkey closed its Öncüpınar border gate on Sept. 18 amid an al-Qaeda advance and the U.S. stopped a batch of non-lethal aid to moderate rebels.
 
At the same time a group of Syria’s most powerful rebel brigades have rejected the Western-Arab-backed opposition group, Syrian National Coalition (SNC), which announced the creation of an interim government in exile. The 13 rebel groups, led by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, called on supporters of the Syrian opposition to embrace Sharia law.

On Oct. 2, U.S. State Department officials conferred and decided on sending three messages to the moderate rebels. Citing an unnamed source who attended meetings, Tanış said the first one was that the U.S. would not repeat the same mistake in Afghanistan where supported groups were radicalized; instead, Washington would wait for moderate groups to distance themselves from radicals. The second one was that the U.S. would not resume its provision of aid until Turkey reopens its border gate and the moderate rebels took control of the northern Syrian town of Azaz. The third and final one was that the U.S. would not allow for any further developments until positive indications were observed from the rebels.

High-ranking CIA official resigns

The opposition tried to solve the deadlock and even pushed al-Nusra Front out of the Saudi Arabian-backed Islamic Army, but could not convince Washington to ‘disengage’ from Syria at the time.

A U.S. official advised yesterday that the aid to rebels had officially ceased. “ISIS has blocked the dispersal of part of the aid. The border gate is closed and we cannot distribute necessary supplies,” he said. Another source familiar with the matter commented on the new U.S. policy, saying it has caused quite the stir within the CIA, including the resignation of a high-ranking official in September.

October/22/2013

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