Obama hopes Syrian rebels can slow ISIS terrorists - Tucson News Now

Obama hopes Syrian rebels can slow ISIS terrorists

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Gains by ISIS terrorists across Syria and Iraq have prompted President Obama to seek aid for moderate Syrian rebels. (Source: CBS) Gains by ISIS terrorists across Syria and Iraq have prompted President Obama to seek aid for moderate Syrian rebels. (Source: CBS)

WASHINGTON, DC (CBS) - The administration's request for new arms and aid to the Syrian rebels is an about-face amid growing alarm over the gains made by Islamist forces in Iraq and Syria.

President Obama has long been reluctant for the U.S. to become more involved in Syria. Just last week, he explained why he has resisted pressure to arm the rebels.

 "The notion that they (rebels) were in a position to suddenly overturn not only (Syrian President) Assad but also ruthless highly-trained jihadists if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy," Obama said.

The $500 million request would fund U.S. training of rebels in neighboring countries, most likely Jordan. It would supply small arms, but not the anti-aircraft missiles the rebels are seeking. The president fears those could easily fall into the hands of extremists.

"President Jarba represents a tribe that reaches right into Iraq," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting with a Syrian rebel leader.

Kerry met on Friday with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba, declaring that the U.S. is at a moment of "increased effort" for his group.

"Obviously in light of what has happened in Iraq, we have even more to talk about in terms of the moderate opposition in Syria," Kerry said.

Congressional leaders in both parties say they believe the funding request can pass, if the administration has a convincing strategy for spending it.

An administration official says Congress wants us to do something - so let them pass this. But even if Congress approves the request, the money would not be appropriated until late fall at the earliest.

So it would be months before any new assistance begins flowing to the Syrian rebels.

Copyright 2014 CBS. All rights reserved.

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