House Intel clears Obama plans to arm Syrian rebel groups

A key congressional panel on Monday authorized the Obama administration to move ahead with plans to arm vetted rebel groups in Syria.

The House intelligence panel had been holding up President Obama's plans since last month after the administration failed to convince lawmakers that the weapons would be enough to tip the balance of power and would not end up in the hands of Islamist militants hostile to the United States. Those concerns have been addressed, Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Monday.

“The House Intelligence Committee has very strong concerns about the strength of the administration's plans in Syria and its chances for success,” Rogers said in a statement. “After much discussion and review, we got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration's plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations.”

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Not everyone agreed with the decision.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a senior member of the intelligence panel, made his opposition clear in a statement.

"I very much appreciate the deliberative process that Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member [Dutch] Ruppersberger (D-Md.) have undertaken to try to reach consensus on the administration's plans and intentions in Syria," Schiff said. "I do not share that consensus, however, and wish to make my dissent clear.  In my view, the modest chance for success of these plans does not warrant the risk of becoming entangled in yet another civil war."

The White House announced in June that it would begin providing arms to the rebels after it determined that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons. The White House has resisted taking further steps, such as setting up a no-fly zone.

The House and Senate Intelligence panels voted late last month to place tough restrictions on the aid. Administration officials told Reuters that the Senate has also tentatively agreed to lift its opposition.

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