Top U.S. senator urges arming Syrian rebels

Top U.S. senator urges arming Syrian rebels
Tue May 7, 2013 18:00:54

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced a bill that would provide weapons to terrorist groups of Syrian rebels. The move comes while recent findings of a UN probe team indicate that foreign-backed insurgents in Syria have used chemical agents in the country.

Menendez, a pro-Israeli Democrat, was one of a few senators pushing the White House to provide lethal aid to the rebels, including al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, fighting the popular government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even before reports that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict.


Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN commission probing the alleged use of the sarin nerve gas in Syria, announced on Sunday that the country’s opposition troops, and not the Assad regime, were behind the use of chemical weapons.


There are “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” of sarin gas being used “on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she reportedly told a Swiss-Italian television outlet.


For the bill to become a law, it would have to get through the committee and be approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives, and signed by President Barack Obama.


"The Assad regime has crossed a red line that forces us to consider all options," Menendez said in a statement.


"The greatest humanitarian crisis in the world is unfolding in and around Syria, and the U.S. must play a role in tipping the scales toward opposition groups and working to build a free Syria," added Menendez who was recently investigated for ties and accepting campaign funds and bribes from a commercial enterprise in Florida.


The bill, to be taken up in committee next week, excludes sales to the rebels of shoulder launched surface-to-air missiles known as MANPADS. This is while armed elements in Syria, who are led by the U.S. and western powers and are financially and logistically backed by their regional allies, have been provided with such weapons for months now.

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