U. S Congress may Approve Aid to Arm Syrian Rebels

Syrian rebels march during a demonstration in Idlib

The U.S. Congress appeared poised on Tuesday to quickly approve President Barack Obama’s plan to arm and train Syrian rebels, a major part of the effort he announced this week to fight Islamic State militants.

The House of Representatives began debating an amendment to a stopgap funding bill that would authorize support for the moderate rebels, who are fighting both the Islamic State and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

House members were expected to vote to pass the amendment on Wednesday, congressional aides and lawmakers said. They added that it would then be sent to the U.S. Senate for expected approval this week, before lawmakers leave Washington to spend the next six weeks campaigning for the Nov. 4 congressional elections.

There are pockets of opposition to the plan, especially among Republicans who hold a majority of seats in the House.

Representative Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, said he would vote against the amendment. He estimated that 10 or 15 other members of the party would join him, although he said he expected it would pass.

“Here we go again … We train the Syrians today who are supposed to be our friends, but tomorrow they’re our enemies,” Jones said, after leaving a party meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday morning. “We need to let these other countries take care of their own region.”

Republican lawmakers unveiled the measure on Monday to quickly provide the authority, but not the funding, that Obama wants to equip and train the rebels.

It sets conditions including barring the use of U.S. ground forces and requiring the administration to submit regular progress reports on the plan and its vetting of the rebels receiving the training and equipment.

Both houses of Congress must pass the stop-gap spending bill to keep the government open after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Obama to Intensify Response to Ebola

U.S. officials have said that the United States will ramp up its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa with plans to build 17 treatment centers, train thousands of healthcare workers, and establish a military control center for coordination.


Senior administration officials said the plan will be unveiled by President BarackObama on Tuesday.

The president will visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta on Tuesday to show his commitment to the issue. The stepped-up effort he will announce is to include some 3,000 military forces and a joint forces command center in Monrovia, Liberia to coordinate efforts with the U.S. government and other international partners.

A senior administration official said on Monday that, the plan will “ensure that the entire international response effort is more effective and helps to scale up to turn the tide in this crisis”, adding that, “the significant expansion that the President will detail … really represents a set of areas where the U.S. military will bring unique capabilities that we believe will improve the effectiveness of the entire global response.”

The treatment centers will have 100 beds each and be built as soon as possible, an official said.

Officials also add that the U.S. plan also focuses on training. A site will be established where military medical personnel will teach some 500 healthcare workers per week for six months or more how to provide care to Ebola patients.

Obama’s administration has requested an additional $88 million from Congress to fight Ebola, including $58 million to speed production of the ZMapp experimental antiviral drug and two Ebola vaccine candidates. Officials said the Department of Defense had requested to reallocate $500 million in funds from fiscal 2014 to help cover the costs of the humanitarian mission.