March 1, 2013
It should come as no surprise that Syria‘s rebels were underwhelmed by Thursday’s U.S. pledge of $60 million in direct aid: Although the announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome marked Washington‘s first direct assistance to the Western backed opposition coalition and reportedly may be accompanied by non-lethal equipment such as body armor and night-vision gear for rebel forces, the pledges fell short of the rebels’ principal demand: weapons.
“Nothing has changed,” the Wall Street Journal was told Thursday by Mohammad Sarmini of the Syrian National Council, the largest bloc in the Western-backed opposition Coalition. “The U.S. position of no arming [the rebels] is crystal clear.” While Sarmini’s group had boycotted the Rome meeting at which Kerry spoke in protest at the limited support on offered to the rebels, the Secretary of State had managed to persuade Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib to reverse his own plan to stay away. Still, even Khatib, during a media appearance with Kerry, reportedly complained of “an international decision to prevent arming Syrian rebels with quality arms.”