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

Lawmakers urge Obama not to send shoulder-fired missiles to Syria
© Getty Images

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 WelchThe Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid Welch to seek Senate seat in Vermont The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Biden hails infrastructure law, talks with China's Xi MORE (Vt.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.), Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOverdue progress on costs of trade to workers, firms, farmers and communities Framing our future beyond the climate crisis Reforming marijuana laws before the holidays: A three-pronged approach MORE (Ore.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonDeSantis tops Crist, Fried in poll of Florida governor race Florida Rep. Val Demings officially enters Senate race against Rubio Demings raises Democrats' hopes in uphill fight to defeat Rubio 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 YohoOcasio-Cortez: Gosar so weak he 'couldn't open a pickle jar' Rep. Gosar posts anime video showing him striking Biden, Ocasio-Cortez Will America fight for Taiwan? MORE (Fla.), Jeff Miller (Fla.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Mark Meadows (N.C.) and Mick Mulvaney (S.C.).