U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY ANNOUNCES DIRECT AMERICAN AID TO SYRIAN OPPOSITION

After meeting with Syria Weekly Standard on February 28, 2013, reported that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States was sending $60 million in non-lethal aid to the opposition. Excerpts below:

In other words, the Free Syrian Army is not going to get what it needs most to change, as Kerry puts it, Bashar al-Assad’s “calculation”—guns. Before the meeting, Obama administration officials had let on that the U.S., while still refusing to arm the opposition, was nonetheless going to train rebel units and provide all sorts of materiel, short of weapons, “vehicles, communications equipment and night vision gear.”

Or perhaps it’s yet another example of the administration using the press to hint at vague promises of a forward-leaning Syria policy, and then walking it back in public. When a reporter at the press conference asked Kerry, “can you commit to providing more substantial assistance in the future, such as communications equipment, armored cars, bulletproof vests, night vision goggles, the things of that nature?,” the secretary of state fudged, evading the question. “We are providing some $60 million, the most significant portion of which is going directly to the Syrian opposition to enable it to be able to organize more effectively.”

This is the first time in two years that U.S. agencies will be distributing aid directly to the opposition. To date, the United States has provided $385 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria over the last two years, which raises the question—how has all that U.S. aid been distributed up until now?

Reporting from a refugee camp held by the rebels close to the Turkish border, Steve Negus says that “the U.N., the organization best equipped to handle such a large-scale relief effort, is legally barred from operating there because the camp is inside Syrian territory.” In the absence of the U.N., it is Syria’s Red Crescent, a Damascus-based organization controlled by the Assad regime, that has been responsible for delivering assistance to needy Syrians.

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