London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The first shipment of US aid reached the Free Syrian Army (FSA) earlier this week, Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt.
Head of the FSA Supreme Military Command, General Salim Idris, was present to oversee the delivery of the new aid. He said: “I hope that this aid will be a first step to be followed by subsequent steps, culminating in our receiving what we need on the battlefield.”
The non-lethal aid, including halal ready meals, medical supplies, and night-vision goggles, was reportedly delivered to the FSA by a US Air Force C-17 cargo plane out of Dover Air Force Base.
This first shipment delivery coincided with US officials revealing that the Department of Defense is studying mechanisms of how the US would arm the Syrian rebels, should president Barack Obama authorize this step.
US sources, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that these discussions are focusing on the State Department and the CIA. The source revealed that if Washington decides to support the Syrian rebels publicly, it will provide aid openly via the State Department. As for if the Obama administration chooses to arm the FSA in secret, this would be done via the CIA.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a Pentagon press conference yesterday that Washington is “rethinking” policy on directly arming the Syrian rebels.
“Arming the rebels; that’s an option,” Hagel said. Asked directly whether Washington is considering taking this step, he replied: “Yes.” Hagel is the first Obama administration official to publicly acknowledge that the US is considering directly arming the Syrian rebels who are seeking to oust the Assad regime.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little had earlier revealed that discussions are underway on how to bolster humanitarian assistance to the rebels, and how to engage even more closely with the opposition forces.
He also revealed that the US military is reviewing a range of options for intervention in Syria. “That’s our responsibility and we believe it is important to have options on the shelf to pull off in case the president looks to use to execute those option,” Little said.
Speaking alongside Hagel yesterday, British Defense Minister Philip Hammond emphasized that Britain has “not thus far provided any arms to the rebels, but we have never said it’s something we will not do.”
He added that the British government is concerned with the “legality” of this move, particularly as it is presently subject to an EU ban on supplying arms to any side in Syria.
“We will look at the situation when the ban expires in a few weeks’ time,” he said.