Dem prepares bill to arm Syrian opposition

The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee will introduce legislation in the coming days giving President Obama the power to “provide vetted Syrian opposition members with appropriate lethal military assistance,” according to a summary of the bill obtained by The Hill.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) announced his intention to drop the bill during an appearance Sunday on ABC's “This Week.” The bill would also allow the president to provide further non-lethal assistance such as body armor and helmets, create a “Radio Free Syria” and set up a program to “facilitate destruction of Syrian chemical and biological weapons.”

The White House is under growing pressure to arm the rebels following revelations that top administration officials – including former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Hillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE, former CIA director David Petraeus and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey – have supported such a move since last year. The administration has spent almost $400 million in humanitarian aid for Syrians since the civil war started two years ago and is now reportedly weighing sending body armor and other defensive equipment.

“President Assad’s days are numbered and no longer can we watch from the sidelines as Syria goes from bad to worse,” Engel said in a statement Wednesday. “Now is the time to arm friendly rebels and turn the tide to allow for a more hopeful Syrian future. Ridding Syria of Assad will provide a strategic setback to Iran, which uses Syria as a pass-through to prop up their terrorist proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.”