Senate panel to recommend arming Syrian rebels

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to recommend deploying weapons to Syrian rebels to bolster their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, the committee’s top Democrat said on Thursday.

Sen. Bob Corker Robert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill’s Morning Report – Kavanaugh could be confirmed in days Senate GOP guards its majority as Dems look to block Trump from appointing Supreme Court justicesThe Hill will be back on top of the day’s big stories: Now Playing: Senate to vote on Kavanaugh nomination, FBI investigation MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations panel, said he would present the legislation Thursday to the full Senate, and that the U.S. is ready to provide arms to the opposition groups, who include the Free Syrian Army, the Free Syria Army’s allies in the war against the Syrian government.

The White House has not publicly weighed in on the legislation, but President Donald Trump Donald John TrumpTrump: ‘The economy is doing great’ Under fire: Biden testifies before House Judiciary Committee MORE said in March that arming the opposition would “probably be a bad idea.”

“We would probably have to have a lot of meetings with people in Syria and other parts of the world and see how much of the arms would be helpful and not help the enemy,” he told ABC News in March.

Corker added that the opposition’s lack of an effective air force could also make it hard for the United States to effectively support it.

“We don’t want to see them suffer in a situation where the only way they can get the message out is with a conventional attack, which has a lot more risk of civilian casualties,” Corker said.

The Syrian opposition, including some foreign backers, has been struggling to gain ground in Syria since President Donald J. Trump Donald Thomas TrumpOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Big oil fights Trump over ethanol mandates | Dem seeks restrictions on trophy hunting | EPA to award largest royalty to coal mining | EPA opens new coal mine in Utah MORE announced in September that he would step down from his post.

The opposition is fighting to overthrow Assad and is accused of using chemical weapons against civilians in a campaign that the United Nations says has killed more than 3,500 people and displaced tens of thousands.

The group, which calls itself the Syrian National Coalition, is the most powerful armed group in Syria.

The U.N. and the Syrian regime have denied the allegations.

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