June 20, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation to bar President Barack Obama from using funds for any activities that would escalate U.S. involvement in Syria’s expanding civil war. The bipartisan bill would restrict the Department of Defense and all U.S. intelligence agencies from funding any military, paramilitary or covert operations in Syria.
All four senators have spoken out strongly in opposition to Obama’s decision to arm rebel groups in Syria. As members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Murphy, Udall and Paul cast the lone votes against authorizing the president to arm and train rebels fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
Friday, The Los Angeles Times revealed CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels, according to anonymous U.S. officials and rebel commanders since last November. In combination with Jordanian and French training assets at bases in Jordan and Turkey, U.S. led training has concentrated on use of anti-tank rifles and missiles as well as anti-aircraft weapons. Training efforts to date appear to have equipped at least several hundred key rebel fighters and commanders from areas including Dara and Damascus, and particularly Free Syrian Army combatants.
One commander in Dara claims the rebels have been promised supplies of armor-piercing anti-tank weapons and other weapons needed to fight the Assad regime’s military might. So far the weaponry provided has been too little and too thin to amount to giving the rebels anything close to parity with the regime.
Also Friday, The Washington Post reported U.S. bases expect to be running arms for delivery to rebel troops inside Syria, and separately reported the CIA itself is preparing for arms delivery to rebels through U.S. bases in Jordan and Turkey. White House and CIA officials have refused comment on training but Obama has announced that about 700 combat-ready American troops have been detailed to Jordan at the request of the Jordanian government.
Training and education command documentation made public last month by the U.S. Marine Corps pointed in this direction. In public discussion of regional and sectarian fears overriding the Syrian crisis and possible spillover conflict, administration discussions at that time highlighted the examination of a range of possible interventions in Syria‘s conflict. Those include the provision of arms to rebels and attacks that would incapacitate the nation‘s air defense system.
U.S. officials went on record with the belief that Iran and Hezbollah are building a network of militias inside Syria to protect their interests in the event that Assad falls. Although the militias are fighting to keep Assad in power, they are also positioning themselves to maintain Iranian supply lines to Hezbollah to continue its fight against Israel.