Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)
Syrian Rebels' Backers Agree on Plan Nations Say There's No Choice but to Give More Assistance
DOHA, Qatar -- The Syrian opposition's major international backers agreed Saturday to provide "urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment" to rebels fighting the government of President Bashar Assad.
The agreement did not specify what kind of weapons would be sent or which supporters would provide what. But officials attending the Doha conference said Saudi Arabia and Qatar are prepared to quickly supply shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles and armor-piercing shells to be used against Mr. Assad's air force and tanks.
Despite offering a series of pledges of coordination and increased aid in recent months, the rebels' backers have been divided and inconsistent in acting on them. But officials insisted the new pledge was firm and specific in terms of both quantity and quantity of supplies.
"Something different happened today," Secretary of State John Kerry said following a four-hour meeting of foreign ministers from 11 Western and Middle Eastern governments. Because of Mr. Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons and the large-scale intervention of Hezbollah and Iranian militia fighters in Syria's civil war, he said, "we have decided that we have no choice ... but to provide greater assistance."
Although the rebels have been receiving arms from Persian Gulf nations, officials said the Doha decision will ensure a continuous, coordinated flow and procedures to ensure that the weapons will be kept from Islamic militants.
The session was the fourth time that the 11 nations that make up the Friends of Syria group -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- have gathered this year.
But since their last meeting, barely a month ago in Amman, Jordan, the situation on the ground has turned sharply against the rebels.
First France and Britain, and early this month the United States, said their separate investigations had concluded that Mr. Assad had used chemical weapons. More important, Iranian and Hezbollah intervention inflamed fears that Syria's civil conflict would spill beyond its borders to become a regional sectarian war. …