Obama Offers Military Support to Foreign Fighters in Syria

The US waiver will allow exceptions from provisions in the four-decades-old Arms Export Control Act
A militant holding a man-portable air defense systemsA militant holding a man-portable air defense systems

US President Barack Obama has ordered a waiver for restrictions on military aid for foreign forces and others in Syria, deeming it “essential to the national security interests” of the US to allow exceptions from provisions in the Arms Export Control Act.

A White House press release on Thursday announced that foreign fighters in Syria supporting US special operations “to combat terrorism in Syria” would be excused from restrictions on military assistance.

“I hereby determine that the transaction, encompassing the provision of defense articles and services to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing US military operations to counter terrorism in Syria, is essential to the national security interests of the United States,” Obama affirmed in the presidential determination and waiver, Russia Today reported.

The order delegates responsibility to the US secretary of state to work with and report to Congress on weapons export proposals, requiring 15 days’ notice before they are authorized.

Obama announced a similar waiver of the Arms Export Control Act in September 2013, following the Ghouta chemical attack in August of that year. That order facilitated the transfer of US military weaponry to “select vetted members” of opposition forces battling Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Thursday’s order appears less narrow in scope.

Last year, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016, which allocated nearly $500 million to arm and train “moderate rebels” in Syria, despite a failed Pentagon program abandoned earlier in 2015.

The challenge of differentiating between terrorist forces, such as Al-Nusra Front, and more moderate forces in Syria, has been acknowledged by press secretaries in recent State Department briefings.

  Obama’s Move False, Desperate

The “counterterrorism” pretext is just a “convenient misappropriation of language,” aimed at arming various militants to battle the Syrian Army and its allies, believes geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen.

“Putting this under the banner of fighting terrorism ... follows on [from] a sort of fantasy concept that’s been pushed out as a talking point for the last year and a half, that if we train and equip the ‘moderate opposition’ they will fight the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group,” Henningsen told RT.

“They want to open the floodgates basically for trafficking weapons to extremists and militants and terrorist groups, internationally recognized terrorist groups ... It’s all being done still under this kind of false pretense of the fight against IS, that somehow ‘moderate’ rebels, if they even exist, will turn their weapons and fight against IS.”

He declared that facts on the ground confirm that from the beginning, this has not been the case, as it is aimed at arming the opposition to fight the Syrian government and to fight Russian forces.

“This is a desperate move on the part of the lame duck president,” Henningsen said.

President Obama’s decision could lead to an almost immediate escalation of the conflict and basically put the US in a situation of “waging a proxy war against the Russians and Syrians”, a former Pentagon official, Michael Maloof, told RT.

“The rebels, whom we cannot identify, are going to be getting some very sophisticated weapons. Potentially, I should say, man-portable air defense systems, which can knock down Russian and Syrian aircraft,” Maloof said.

He added “and the fact too, that we have stocks already in Europe, that can easily be transferred with this waiver. Under the waiver, it’s supposed to be a 15-day notification to Congress, but Congress, as of tonight, Washington time, is going to be out of session until January. So these arms can go within hours”.


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