U.S. House Democrat Eliot Engel Will Introduce Legislation To Arm Syrian Rebels

Congressman To Introduce Bill That Would Arm Syrian Rebels

United States Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that he plans to introduce a bill that would allow President Obama to transfer weapons to the Free Syrian Army, currently engaged in a nearly two-year-long battle against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Engel, who is a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said, "I will be introducing legislation to allow the president to arm the rebels. I think it’s time to do that. I think the Free Syrian Army needs help. We know who they are. And I think it’s time that we make that move."

Rep. Engel's comments on Sunday came in response to "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran, who was reporting from the region and said on "This Week" that the U.S. had a choice between arming the rebels or brokering a peace deal that would probably involve both Russia and embattled President Assad.

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Adam Sharon, a spokesman for Rep. Engel, confirmed over the phone to The Huffington Post that such a bill is in the works, saying it will be introduced in the coming days.

Providing military assistance to the Syrian rebels has been a thorny issue since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.

Although the CIA was authorized to provide covert support to the Syrian rebels at least as far back as August, and although the White House says it has given over $350 million in humanitarian aid to the war-stricken nation, Predident Obama has been reluctant to engage in direct military intervention there and is said to have vetoed a plan to arm some rebel groups.

That plan, which involved giving weapons and training to certain rebel groups after vetting them, had been supported by then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, then-CIA Director David Petraeus, outgoing-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

In an interview with The New Republic from Jan. 27, Obama explained some of his reservations about direct military intervention in Syria:

In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation? ... What would be the aftermath of our involvement on the ground? Could it trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons? ... And how do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?

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