U.S. House approves arms for Syrian rebels
The Republican-controlled House voted grudgingly to give the U.S. military authority to train and arm Syrian rebels on Wednesday as President Barack Obama emphasized anew that American forces “do not and will not have a combat mission” in the struggle against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
The 273-156 vote crossed party lines to an unusual degree in a Congress marked by near ceaseless partisanship. Top Republican and Democratic leaders backed the plan seven weeks before midterm elections, while dozens of rank and file lawmakers in both parties opposed it, the Associated Press reported.
The provision was added to spending legislation that will assure the federal government operates normally after the Sept. 30 end of the budget year. Final approval is expected in the Senate as early as Thursday.
Even supporters of the plan found little to trumpet. “This is the best of a long list of bad options,” said Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat.
Obama vowed on Wednesday to eradicate ISIS through a careful counter-terrorism strategy but reiterated that U.S. troops would not be deployed as part of the campaign against the militants.
“We will find you eventually,” Obama, addressing ISIS, said at a military base in Tampa, Florida.
The American president said more than 40 countries have offered to help the U.S. led coalition against ISIS, which gained swathes of Iraqi territory in a lightening offensive in June and control provinces in neighboring Syria.
Obama said France and Britain were already flying with the United States over Iraq, adding that Australia and Canada would send military advisors to the country.
He also noted Saudi Arabia’s willingness to base a U.S. mission to train moderate Syrian rebels on its soil and said German paratroopers were also going to take part in a training mission which he did not specify.
He also put to rest the possibility of sending U.S. ground troops as part of the coalition against ISIS.
“The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” Obama said at the U.S. Central Command.
Obama made his speech after meeting Gen. Lloyd Austin, who runs US Central Command, which stretches across the troubled belt of South and Central Asia and the Middle East.
Later Wednesday, U.S. Foreign Secretary John Kerry said ISIS needed to defeated, noting that the militants “were making a mockery of Islam.”
Kerry repeated Obama’s position that no U.S. troops would be dispatched to fight ISIS.
He also said the campaign against ISIS would end once the group was defeated.