Congress backs Obama on aid to Syrian rebels

2014-09-19 14:03
(Youssef Karwashan, AFP)

(Youssef Karwashan, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Legislation requested by President Barack Obama authorising the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State militants in the Middle East is headed for his signature after a sweeping Senate vote.

The bipartisan 78-22 tally on Thursday blended support from Obama's close Democratic allies and some of his fiercest Republican critics, including top senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. It put leading contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on opposite sides. Some of Obama's liberal allies defected.

The legislation also provides funding for the government after the end of the budget year on 30 September, eliminating any threat of a shutdown in the run-up to November elections that will seat a new House and decide control of the senate. The House approved the bill on Wednesday.

Obama said the support from both Republicans and Democrats "shows the world that Americans are united" in combating the Islamic State group. He said the terrorists thought they could frighten or intimidate Americans, but the Senate vote had showed them they were wrong.

"As Americans, we do not give in to fear," Obama said. "We pull together. We stand together."

US troops would train Syrian rebels at camps in Saudi Arabia, though the chairperson of the joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, said it could take a year before they would return to the battlefield in Syria.

The arm-and-train authority only extends into December, and lawmakers are to revisit the issue in a post election, lame-duck session.

Supporters of the proposal agreed that more has to be done to combat Islamic State extremists who have taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria and shocked the world by beheading two American journalists and a British aid worker.

The US estimates the extremists can muster 20 000 to 31 500 fighters across Syria and Iraq, with two-thirds of them in Syria and the rest in Iraq. Terrorism experts say they are better organised and more dangerous than al-Qaeda, which is lending urgency to the effort.

But opponents of Obama's strategy say it would hand weapons to shadowy groups that could prove untrustworthy and whose top priority is to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Intervention when both choices are bad is a mistake. Intervention when both sides are evil is a mistake. Intervention that destabilises the Middle East is a mistake", said senator Rand Paul, R-Ky, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016. "And yet, here we are again, wading into a civil war."

Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who's also weighing a presidential run, joined Paul in opposition, while Republican Senator Marco Rubio, also a potential candidate, supported the president's request.

"We will confront ISIL one way or the other, and I believe the sooner the better", Rubio said, using an alternate acronym for the group. "What we are asked to do now is approve funding to arm moderate rebel elements in Syria.

There is no guarantee of success. There is none. But there is a guarantee of failure if we do not even try."

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  isil  |  barack obama  |  syria  |  us  |  syria conflict

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.