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White House downplays resignation of Syrian rebel forces leader

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White House spokesman Josh Earnest expressed regret Monday over the resignation of Syrian opposition leader Moaz Khatib but said it would not change the U.S. support for those fighting President Bashir Assad’s regime.

“We’re sorry to see the news of Khatib’s resignation,” Mr. Earnest told reporters at Monday’s briefing. “Khatib is a courageous and pragmatic leader who has a strong sense of Syrians’ hopes and fears. The opposition has been well-served by his leadership, and the Syrian people will continue to benefit from his service in whatever capacity he chooses to provide it.”

Still, Mr. Earnest said Mr. Khatib’s departure would not impact U.S. support.

“It’s important to underscore that leadership transitions are inevitable in any democratic process and Khatib’s announcement does not change the U.S. policy of support for the Syrian opposition and the Syrian Opposition Coalition.”

In announcing his resignation Sunday, Mr. Khatib complained that the international community had not provided Syrians with enough support to topple Mr. Assad, the Associated Press reported.

Repeating Mr. Obama’s statements from Friday when he held a joint press conference with Jordan King Abdullah in Amman, Mr. Earnest stressed that the United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid and will continue to work with international partners to provide organization support and training to the opposition. He declined to comment on reports that the CIA is training rebel forces.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, over the weekend said Mr. Obama’s trip to Israel and Jordan was “a disappointment” and a “squandered opportunity.”

“I thought candidly the president did us a little bit of harm,” Mr. Rogers said. “When he was asked the question by the Syrian reporter why is not a superpower engaged in some way to better the prospect of this outcome, he said, well, basically, it’s too hard, so I’m not going to make a decision. I’m going to send you a check. Everybody sees that.”

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About the Author

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at

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