- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Congress’ intelligence committees have approved CIA plans to ship weapons to Syrian rebels, despite concerns that the arms might fall into the hands of extremists and that the aid will not be enough to shift the stalemate in the country’s civil war.

“The House intelligence committee has very strong concerns about the strength of the administration’s plans in Syria and its chances for success,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “After much discussion and review, we got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration plans.”

According to congressional officials, the deal with the oversight committees allows the CIA to use previously appropriated funds to pay for the weapons supplies, which President Obama authorized last month after concluding that Syria’s government had used chemical weapons against the opposition.

Media reports have revealed the existence of a CIA operation in Jordan that already has been providing training and nonlethal aid to rebel brigades identified by U.S. intelligence as “moderates.”

Weapons shipments should begin within weeks, a congressional official told The Washington Times.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the United States should not get drawn into the Syrian conflict, but many hawkish Republicans have argued that direct U.S. military involvement will be necessary to dislodge Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

But U.S. military intervention in Syria likely would cost billions of dollars and carry several risks for the forces involved, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in letter that was released Monday.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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