Congress Is Holding Up the Shipment of Arms to Syrian Rebels

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A rebel fighter holds an improvised mortar shell at a factory in Aleppo on July 7, 2013. Photo: JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

When President Obama announced in June that the U.S. would send arms to rebel groups in Syria, many speculated that it might already be too late to make a difference. While one might think that would encourage the U.S. to speed up its shipments, the weapons still haven't arrived in Syria, and Congress could call off the plan entirely. Reuters reports that the intelligence and appropriations committees in both the House and the Senate have expressed concerns that the deliveries won't be a decisive factor in Syria's civil war, and may end up in the hands of rebel groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda. For now, funding the White House said it wants to use to pay for the arms shipments has been frozen.

Secretary of State John Kerry and outgoing CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell briefed the committees on the situation in Syria late last month, but members of Congress weren't happy with the plan. The White House doesn't technically need Congressional approval to order the shipments, but usually the executive branch won't move forward if the intelligence committees object to such programs.

Over the weekend, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood called on the U.S. and Europe to deliver the weapons they promised, saying they feel "abandoned and disappointed." While they've finally won over President Obama, the Syrian rebels will have to keep waiting until the White House can strike a deal with members of Congress.