Monday, December 11, 2017

U.S. allows group to accept donations for Syrian rebels

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration quietly has cleared the way for U.S. residents to buy weapons for the rebels who are fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, granting a Washington-based advocacy group a rare license to collect money for arms and other equipment.

The license, which the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued last month without fanfare, gives the nonprofit Syrian Support Group the authority to take in money and pass it directly to armed insurgents. Previously, U.S. entities' assistance to Syria was limited to humanitarian and educational programs.

Brian Sayers, an American who once served as a NATO political officer and is now the Syrian Support Group's Washington lobbyist, said the new license would ease the fears of many prospective donors that helping the rebels buy guns would run afoul of U.S. law. "A lot of donors have been reluctant," he said.

Other analysts said the license would send a message to the Assad government, despite the Obama administration's opposition to U.S. military intervention and its reluctance to supply weapons directly to the rebels.

"It's indirect pressure the U.S. is putting on the regime: 'Hey, we're getting involved with the Free Syrian Army if you don't stop this,' " said Mohammad Abdallah, the head of the new Syria Justice and Accountability Center, a partially U.S.-funded clearinghouse for documenting atrocities.

Sayers said the Syrian Support Group had vetted nine military councils of the Free Syrian Army, the loosely organized rebel force, and already was accepting donations to send to Syria "within weeks." The support group also is consulting legal advisers to make sure members and donors wouldn't run into trouble should the money end up in the hands of militant Islamists, who have become a more visible part of the Syrian revolt in recent weeks.

"We're definitely looking into it. We're studying the issue very carefully," he said.

Sayers said the license would allow more transparency in the flow of weapons to the ragtag militias that were fighting Assad's better-equipped forces. He said the money also could be used to pay fighters' salaries and help toward procuring gas masks, vehicles and other items the rebels report as scarce.

With detailed fund transfers and logs of how the money is used, he added, weapons purchases can be better tracked and distributed than it is in the current system, which involves shadowy donations from Persian Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Comments

Girls soccer: Land O’Lakes 5, River Ridge 1

LAND O'LAKES – They might not have been ready to play at the very start, but Land O'Lakes came around. Sydney Nasello scored two goals as the Gators (8-2) took over first place in Class 3A, District 8 with a 5-1 defeat of visiting Riv...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Trump picks Bush ally Frank Brogan to be assistant secretary of education

Trump picks Bush ally Frank Brogan to be assistant secretary of education

President Donald Trump has named Frank Brogan, one of closest allies of his campaign rival Jeb Bush, to be the assistant secretary of education for elementary and secondary education.Brogan, 64, a former Martin County fifth grade teacher and schools ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Brady intercepted twice as Dolphins beat Pats 27-20

Brady intercepted twice as Dolphins beat Pats 27-20

Brady intercepted twice, Dolphins snap Patriots' eight-game winning streak
Updated: 12 minutes ago

AP Top News at 1:16 a.m. EST

AP Top News at 1:16 a.m. EST
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Brady intercepted twice as Dolphins beat Pats 27-20

Brady intercepted twice as Dolphins beat Pats 27-20

Brady intercepted twice, Dolphins snap Patriots' eight-game winning streak
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Ex-US deserter to NKorea who married Japan abductee dies

Ex-US deserter to NKorea who married Japan abductee dies

U.S Army deserter to North Korea, who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release in the 2000s, has died
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Late-night host Kimmel holds son, pleads for health care

Late-night host Kimmel holds son, pleads for health care

Jimmy Kimmel held his baby son as he returned to his late-night show from a week off for the boy's heart surgery
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Oregon holds off winless Texas Southern 74-68

Oregon holds off winless Texas Southern 74-68

Payton Pritchard scored 16 points, Troy Brown had 10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists and Oregon beat winless Texas Southern 74-68
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Clippers end Raptors' streak with 96-91 victory

Clippers end Raptors' streak with 96-91 victory

Montrezl Harrell scored 17 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied over the final 3:21 to beat Toronto 96-91 and snap the Raptors' six-game winning streak
Updated: 22 minutes ago
After NYC subway bombing, Trump slams 'chain migration'

After NYC subway bombing, Trump slams 'chain migration'

A would-be suicide bomber's rush-hour blast in the New York City subway system is adding new fuel to President Donald Trump's push to limit immigration based on family ties
Updated: 23 minutes ago