U.S. Decision To Provide Non-Lethal Aid To Syrian Opposition Draws Criticism From Some In Aid Community

“The decision by the Obama administration to provide non-lethal aid to Syrian rebel forces seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad is drawing fire from some in the aid community, saying it politicizes aid and violates principles of neutrality which govern aid delivery,” CNN’s “Security Clearance” blog reports, noting, “Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday announced the United States would give aid to armed opposition, including medical supplies and meals.” According to the blog, “Washington hopes the aid will bolster the credibility of the Syrian opposition, peel away supporters from al-Assad and curb a growing allegiance to radical Islamic groups gaining favor among the population by providing basic services to citizens in rebel-controlled areas,” but “some aid workers worry al-Assad’s regime could punish all humanitarian groups for the U.S. decision, thus hampering efforts to deliver aid.”

“The State Department is making a distinction between the direct aid to the Syrian opposition and some $385 million in humanitarian aid which is delivered through the United Nations and aid groups throughout the country,” “Security Clearance” notes. But some say aid given directly to the opposition “blurs the lines and warns Syrian forces, which have targeted bread lines and clearly marked humanitarian envoys. They could start targeting all aid workers in an effort to stop supplies going to the rebels,” according to the blog. The article includes comments from an unnamed senior aid official who works in Syria for a faith-based organization; State Department deputy spokesperson Patrick Ventrell; Andrew Natsios, a former USAID administrator currently at the Bush School of Government and Foreign Policy at Texas A&M University; Elliot Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations; and Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International (Brennan/Labott, 3/3).

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