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Terrorism & Security

US will send nonlethal aid directly to Syrian rebels (+video)

Secretary of State John Kerry said that some groups the US doesn't support are gaining more influence with the rebels in the absence of greater Western help.

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Today’s meeting in Rome of The Friends of Syria group – made up of the Syrian opposition and 11 foreign powers that support them – comes days before a meeting of the Syrian National Coalition in Turkey. According to Al Jazeera, at the Istanbul meeting the main Syrian opposition group is expected to “elect a prime minister and government to run parts of Syria seized from [President Bashar al-]Assad’s control.”

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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According to the Times, a primary goal of the US is to support the opposition in strengthening its credibility among the Syrian population. 

Since the conflict erupted two years ago, the United States has provided $365 million in humanitarian aid to Syrians. American officials are increasingly worried that extremist members of the resistance against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, notably the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, which the United States has asserted is affiliated with Al Qaeda, will take control of portions of Syria and cement its authority by providing public services, much as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon….

To blunt the power of extremist groups, the United States wants to help the Syrian Opposition Council, the coalition of Syrian resistance leaders it backs and helped organize, deliver basic services in areas that have been wrested from the control of the Assad government.

A US State Department official said that Washington wanted to help the opposition maintain "the institutions of the state" in areas under their control, reports Al Jazeera.

"We're talking about basic services, water, electricity – but also [to] build up new institutions in terms of governance, rule of law, police," State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters.

Another potential reason behind the US policy shift in Syria is to send a message to Mr. Assad that rebels have the support and capability to ultimately succeed, providing an impetuous for negotiating a political transition, reports the Times.

“He needs to know that he can’t shoot his way out of this,” Kerry said of Assad.

According to AP:

The U.S. will be sending technical advisers to the Syrian National Coalition offices in Cairo to oversee and help them spend the money for good governance and rule of law. The advisers will be from non-governmental organizations and other groups that do this kind of work.

Attendees at today’s meeting also condemned countries providing weapons and support to Assad, a separate Reuters story reports. Iran is suspected of supplying weapons and military support to the regime, and Russia has openly noted its provisions of military equipment.

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