U.S. Congress pushes ahead with bid to arm Syrian rebels

Rebel fighters make improvised mortar shells inside a weapons factory in the southern countryside of Idlib September 9, 2014. Picture taken September 9, 2014. (Reuters)

ARA News 

The U.S. House of Representatives began debating legislation on Tuesday to authorize President Barack Obama’s plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants, and lawmakers said the measure would likely pass the full Congress by the end of this week.

House Republican leaders unveiled the authorization on Monday as an amendment to a stopgap funding bill Congress must pass this month, after Obama asked lawmakers to approve the training as part of his broader plan to stop the Sunni militants who have taken over swaths of Syria and Iraq.

House members were expected to vote to pass the amendment on Wednesday, congressional aides and lawmakers said. It would then be sent to the U.S. Senate for approval this week, before lawmakers leave Washington to spend the next six weeks campaigning for the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

The Senate, which is controlled by Obama’s fellow Democrats, is expected to approve the amendment.

House Speaker John Boehner said he considered Obama’s request a “sound one” and that he saw no reason for Congress not to authorize it, although he did not think Obama’s larger plan to stop the Islamic State was strong enough.

“If our goal here is to destroy ISIL, we’ve got to do more than train a few folks in Syria and train a few folks in Iraq and drop some bombs,” Boehner told reporters after a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, using an alternative abbreviation for the Islamic State group.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urged lawmakers at a Senate hearing to move quickly on the authorization, so recruiting and training of a moderate rebel force, which will take months, can get under way. “Time is of the essence here,” Hagel said



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