Rebel fighters from Harakat Hazm (Hazm movement) take cover
after a mortar shell hits near them in Aleppo's Sheikh Said
district. REUTERS/Hamid Khatib
President Barack Obama, under pressure from some
lawmakers for greater US backing for Syria's opposition, has
asked the US Congress to approve $500 million to train and
equip moderate Syrian rebels seeking to oust President Bashar
A White House statement said rebels would be vetted before
being given assistance, in an effort to assuage concerns that
some equipment provided to the Syrian opposition might
ultimately fall into the hands of US enemies.
Obama has been under strong pressure from some lawmakers,
such as Republican Senator John McCain Of Arizona, to
increase assistance to the rebels in Syria's three-year-old
civil war. Some lawmakers have accused Obama of being passive
and indecisive for months, allowing Assad to repulse a threat
to his government.
Obama's request for $500 million followed through on a
promise he made in late May in a foreign policy speech that
he would "ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition
who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal
The White House said the money would help defend the Syrian
people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate
the provision of essential services, counter terrorist
threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement.
"This funding request would build on the administration's
longstanding efforts to empower the moderate Syrian
opposition, both civilian and armed, and will enable the
Department of Defense to increase our support to vetted
elements of the armed opposition," the White House said.