Obama requests $500M for Syria opposition

President Obama asked Congress Thursday for $500 million to train and arm members of opposition forces in Syria.

The proposed assistance can "help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control and facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement," the administration said in a report to Congress.

Recipients of the money -- opponents of the Syrian government headed by Bashar al-Assad -- will be vetted to make sure they are not members of terrorist groups, according to the formal request Obama submitted to Congress.

"This funding request would build on the administration's longstanding efforts to empower the moderate Syrian opposition, both civilian and armed, and will enable the Department of Defense to increase our support to vetted elements of the armed opposition," said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

The administration's budget request includes $1.5 billion for a "Regional Stabilization Initiative" in which the Syrian opposition would partner with neighboring countries Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

The initiative would be part of the "Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund" that Obama proposed during a foreign policy address last month at West Point.

Hayden said the United States continues to believe that "there is no military solution to this crisis," and the U.S. "should not put American troops into combat in Syria."

Assistance to the rebels "marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks," she said.


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