Obama OKs Secret Backing for Syria Rebels

Signed order allows CIA to support rebels
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2012 12:58 AM CDT
Updated Aug 2, 2012 7:54 AM CDT
Obama OKs Secret Backing for Syria Rebels
Free Syrian Army soldiers in Anadan, around 10 miles north of Aleppo.   (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)

Syrian rebels have become much more organized and effective in recent weeks, and it appears the CIA deserves some of the credit. President Obama has signed a secret order, approved earlier this year, allowing the CIA and other American agencies to support rebels seeking to oust Bashar al-Assad, sources tell Reuters. It's not clear how much clandestine support the agencies are offering, but they have apparently stopped short of providing the rebels with lethal weapons.

Obama signed a similar order during the Libyan conflict allowing covert support for rebels battling Moammar Gadhafi's regime. The State Department has authorized $25 million for "nonlethal" support for the rebels and another $64 million in humanitarian aid. Foreign policy experts told a Senate panel yesterday that the time has come for the US to start arming the rebels, CNN reports. "At this point, given the direction of the conflict, I think that what we need to do is assess which groups could we and should we arm at what point, and make that decision," an expert from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy testified. "I think that we're actually at that decision, given where the conflict is going." (More Syria stories.)

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