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U.S. officials question Obama’s decision to arm Syrian rebels

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Some members of the U.S. Congress are calling into question President Barack Obama’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels in light of violence against religious minorities, both at the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and members of the opposition.

“Money talks. The United States should be using assistance to ensure recipient countries and entities have a plan that is implemented to protect vulnerable religious minorities,” Republican Representative Christopher Smith said.

A State Department official, the leader of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and directors of three non-governmental organizations testified about violence against Syria’s religious minorities at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing Tuesday, most agreeing that U.S. aid to the opposition should at least be conditioned on respect for the rights of minorities.

“The war’s seeds of genocide have the greatest potential to cleanse the country of its religious minorities,” said John Eibner, the CEO of Christian Solidarity International, during his testimony.

The State Department’s Thomas Melia, however, defended the decision to arm the rebels. “These extremist groups do not support the aspirations nor do they reflect the mindset of the vast majority of the Syrian people, or even the vast majority of the active Syrian opposition. The atrocities committed by these extremist elements should not be conflated with the efforts by the moderate opposition.”



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