President Barack Obama has placed his formal support behind rebel efforts in Syria, having signed a secret order permitting U.S. agencies to support groups looking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Sources within the administration told Reuters that an order approved earlier this year known as an intelligence “finding” was signed by the president, allowing the CIA and other agencies to provide support to the rebels. Assad’s opponents are gaining more and more backing internationally, though foreign supporters are reluctant to intervene directly.
Last month, the U.N. Security Council failed to implement stricter sanctions against Assad’s government, but the Obama administration has demonstrated that it will maximize support without stepping on the toes of allies. Though full extent of support the CIA is providing has been unclear, officials have maintained that the U.S. government is not providing rebels with lethal weaponry. Both European and U.S. officials have identified an increase in the level of organization among the Syrian rebels, who had previously been viewed as disjointed.
According to government sources, a command center has been established in southern Turkey, just miles away from the Syrian border, operated by the U.S., Turkey and their allies. Turkish authorities have been said to be providing the rebels with both training and equipment. Along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey has been one of the most outspoken states in the region calling for Assad’s departure. U.S. officials believe that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are responsible for the financing of the rebels’ weaponry.
The State department said Wednesday that $25 million in “non-lethal” assistance has been set aside for assisting the Syrian opposition, as well as $64 million in funding for humanitarian efforts for the Syrian people. Though Washington seems to be fully behind the Syrian rebellion, some lawmakers have spoken out against the unilateral support of rebel groups, whose long term motives are unknown. As of now, U.S. and European officials do not believe that Islamist militants are playing a large role in the rebel movement.