The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.
Although the Obama administration signaled months ago that it would increase aid to Syrian rebels, the efforts have lagged because of the logistical challenges involved in delivering equipment in a war zone and officials’ fears that any assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists.
U.S. officials decided to expand nonlethal assistance to Syria’s armed rebels after they delivered more than 350,000 high-calorie U.S. military food packets through the Supreme Military Council in May. The distribution gave U.S. officials confidence that it was possible to limit aid to select rebel units in a battlefield where thousands of fighters share al-Qaeda’s ideology, U.S. officials said.
“We feel we’re able to get these local councils off to a good start,” said Ward, a veteran U.S. Agency for International Development official who has worked in Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “We vet individuals who are getting our assistance to make sure they are not affiliated with terror organizations.”
The initiatives are part of a $250 million effort to support moderate factions of the Syrian opposition. Of that, the United States has earmarked $26.6 million in aid for the Supreme Military Council.
Meanwhile, Russia Today reports on Syrian government fighting jihadists to win back Christian village of Maaloula:
Some residents, who claim rebels have resorted to looting, executions and forcing residents to convert to Islam, chose to join the Army to defend their village. Among them, Saba Ubeid, a store owner, said when filmed by RT in 2012 that he was sure the rebels would never come to the village. This time he was armed with a gun and fought alongside Syrian soldiers.
“They sent terrorists here from all corners of the world to kill Syrian people and each other. Why? I ask the world, why?” he cried out. “While in Europe if a citizen is simply slapped in his face, there’ll be a scandal. While Syrians – how many victims, how many hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered? When it will stop?”
Maaloula, a mountain village of 2,000 people, is the center of Christianity in the region. Alongside with Catholic and Orthodox monasteries there are the remains of numerous convents, churches, shrines and sanctuaries. It is also one of the very few places in the world where people still speak Western Aramaic, a Biblical language that Jesus is believed to have spoken.
The village, built into a rugged mountainside, is a major pilgrimage destination for Christians and Muslims from around the world. It is an ancient sanctuary on a UNESCO list of proposed World Heritage sites.
10% of Syria’s 22 million people are Christian, according to wikipedia. Obama isn’t going to protect them anymore than Bush protected Christians in Iraq.