WASHINGTON - A Senate panel voted overwhelmingly yesterday to send weapons to rebels fighting Syria's government, but it was unclear who would get the arms even if the bill succeeds, as Washington struggles to deal with its response to the conflict.
WASHINGTON — A Senate panel voted overwhelmingly yesterday to send weapons to rebels fighting Syria’s government, but it was unclear who would get the arms even if the bill succeeds, as Washington struggles to deal with its response to the conflict.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 15-3 for legislation that would send arms to “ vetted” moderate members of the Syrian opposition, the first time U.S. lawmakers have approved such military action during the 2-year-old civil war.
The measure now will be considered by the full Senate, where a vocal group of legislators has been pushing for President Barack Obama to do more to help the rebels waging a war in which at least 80,000 people have died.
Only three senators on the committee — Republican Ron Paul and Democrats Tom Udall and Chris Murphy — opposed the bill. But lawmakers from both parties expressed concerns about whether sending arms risked putting powerful weapons into the wrong hands, including fighters with ties to al-Qaida.
“I don’t think we know who we’re arming. And the truth is, it changes every day. Sometimes resistance fighters are fighting each other,” Udall said.
The Republican-controlled House has less enthusiasm for arming the rebels, so it is unclear whether the Senate bill would ever get through Congress and reach Obama to be signed into law.With international pressure rising for a return to the table by both sides of the Syrian war, the United Nations-Arab League mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the United Nations is working to organize the peace talks.The talks are due to take place in Geneva in June. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to discuss planning for the conference at a meeting in Jordan today.