ROME—Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is preparing for the first time to directly provide nonlethal assistance, including food rations and medical supplies, to rebel Syrian fighters as part of a bid to change President Bashar al-Assad's "calculations" and expedite his removal from office.
Washington's top diplomat also announced at an international conference in Italy on Thursday that the U.S. will provide $60 million in assistance to Syria's main political opposition group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, to help it unify politically and better distribute humanitarian supplies and public services to areas of Syria that have been liberated from Mr. Assad's rule.
The U.S. has already provided humanitarian supplies, communications equipment and training to Syria's political opposition. But Thursday marked the first time that Washington announced it will directly engage with Syria's military fighters through the Supreme Military Command, which is attached to the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
The Supreme Military Command is a coalition of the armed forces of the various opposition factions, and could be the basis of a replacement government should Assad vacate his office. Of course, care must be taken to make sure that none of that aid goes to assist groups with aims beyond Syria that include Israel and the US, and you can almost hear the far right Israel lobby throwing a hissy fit that America is getting involved at all in this, since it provides cover for militant activities in Syria and by extension, Lebanon.
Not that Assad is pro-Israel, of course, but the Devil you know...
Still, it's a tricky "thread the needle" that Kerry has to accomplish here: assist rebel forces in Syria without openly confronting the Sov-- I mean, the Russians who have announced they will jack up their military presence in the region.
And to be fair, $60 million is just a large drop in the bucket considering the assistance we could provide. This no doubt has the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) a little upset, but this is why diplomats exist, to make them see things our way.
What's the famous saying, "Diplomacy is the art of letting you have my way"?
The SOC threatened to boycott the Rome conference over the lack of a Western reponse to the humanitarian crisis of government-led violence against the people of Syria. The Russian chess pieces prevent us from openly doing much more than we have been able to, plus our new initiative. This is hardly the time to start a World War.