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Middle East

White House backs opposition training plan

A rebel fighter from Harakat Hazm (Hazm movement) walks with his weapon in Aleppo's Sheikh Said district June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Hamid Khatib

WASHINGTON: Dana Shell Smith, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Qatar, said Wednesday that the administration supported language in a Senate defense bill that would allow overt military training for the moderate Syrian opposition.

“It’s my understanding that the administration does support the ... language in the [defense bill] to authorize training and equipment of the moderate opposition,” Smith said in her Senate confirmation hearing.

Smith, currently a State Department senior adviser, was responding to a question about language included in the National Defense Authorization Act making its way through the Senate that would allow an overt, “Title 10” military training program for the moderate Syrian opposition, led by U.S. Special Operations forces.

The comment came after Susan Rice, Obama’s top foreign policy adviser, said last Friday that Washington was providing “lethal and nonlethal” support to select members of the opposition, offering more detail than usual on U.S. assistance.

Top Obama administration officials typically decline to say exactly what equipment, arms or ammunition the United States is providing to moderate Syrian opposition forces.

“That’s why the U.S. has ramped up its support for the moderate vetted opposition, providing lethal and nonlethal support where we can to support both the civilian opposition and the military opposition.”

Also Wednesday, Assad said Western countries backing the revolt have started to shift position on the conflict because of the danger posed to them by jihadists.

“The United States and the West have started to send signs of change. Terrorism is now on their soil,” said Assad, according to remarks published in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which backs the regime.

Assad said “current and former U.S. officials are trying to get in touch with us, but they do not dare to because of the powerful lobbies that are pressuring them.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 12, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Dana Shell Smith, President Barack Obama's nominee to be ambassador to Qatar, said Wednesday that the administration supported language in a Senate defense bill that would allow overt military training for the moderate Syrian opposition.

The comment came after Susan Rice, Obama's top foreign policy adviser, said last Friday that Washington was providing "lethal and nonlethal" support to select members of the opposition, offering more detail than usual on U.S. assistance.

Top Obama administration officials typically decline to say exactly what equipment, arms or ammunition the United States is providing to moderate Syrian opposition forces.


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