Lawmakers urge Obama not to send shoulder-fired missiles to Syria

Lawmakers urge Obama not to send shoulder-fired missiles to Syria
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is calling on President Obama not to supply shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

“We urge you to maintain your stance in opposition to sending MANPADS into Syria and also request that you strongly discourage all nations from doing so,” the 27 House lawmakers wrote in a letter to Obama this week.

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Obama has long opposed sending the missiles — Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS — to Syrian rebels. The fear is that the weapons could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and be used against civilian aircraft.

But a Wall Street Journal article in April said the CIA was being urged by partners such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia to provide the weapons, with modifications. The proposed modifications include limits on how long the batteries last or geographical sensors to prevent them from being fired outside designated areas of Syria.

The Journal report specifies the administration still considers MANPADS a red line and that the administration has proposed different systems it believes would be less of a danger. The article also stresses that the CIA supplying any more powerful weapons is a “Plan B” if the tenuous cease-fire and peace talks completely collapse.

The lawmakers, concerned about the reports, highlighted the administration’s own quotes in the past in opposition to supplying the weapons.

“We strongly support that view, as MANPADS can easily be hidden in the trunk of a car or even in a golf bag, making their proliferation a serious threat to civilian airliners in the region — including Israeli airliners — and across the world,” the lawmakers wrote.

Further, they wrote, Congress has repeatedly voted to block sending MANPADS to Syria through the 2015 and 2016 appropriations bills.

Sending MANPADS to Syria also appears to violate at least three U.S.-backed international agreements, they wrote.

Concerns about weapons falling into the hands of terrorists were realized last year when Pentagon-backed rebels fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria surrendered to an al Qaeda affiliate, the lawmakers said.

“The concerns repeatedly and unanimously expressed by the House of Representatives were validated when the Pentagon confirmed that last September, Syrian rebels vetted and trained by the United States handed over their equipment to the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front,” they wrote.

“The rebels surrendered six pick-up trucks and ammunition — amounting to about one-quarter of their issued equipment — to an agent of the Nusra Front.”

The letter was signed by Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Beto O’Rourke (Texas), Hank Johnson (Ga.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Richard Nolan (Minn.), Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (Vt.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.), Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerAhead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans Trump threatens to double down on Portland in other major cities Federal agents deployed to Portland did not have training in riot control: NYT MORE (Ore.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonFlorida's Darren Soto fends off Dem challenge from Alan Grayson Live results: Arizona and Florida hold primaries The Hill's Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message MORE (Fla.), Jim McDermottJames (Jim) Adelbert McDermottSondland has 'no intention of resigning,' associate says Three women accuse Gordon Sondland of sexual misconduct Portland hotel chain founded by Trump ambassador says boycott is attack on employees MORE (Wash.), James McGovern (Mass.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Katherine Clark (Mass.), David Cicilline (R.I.) and Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.), and Republican Reps. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoKat Cammack wins Florida GOP primary in bid for Ted Yoho's seat The Hill's Convention Report: Democrats gear up for Day Two of convention Eyes turn to Ocasio-Cortez as she seeks to boost Biden MORE (Fla.), Jeff Miller (Fla.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Mark Meadows (N.C.) and Mick Mulvaney (S.C.).