Senate Approves Obama’s Plan to Train and Arm Syrian Rebels

September 18, 2014  

The U.S. Senate approved on Thursday President Barack Obama’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebel groups to fight “Islamic State” (IS) fighters, the BBC reported.

The vote came a day after the House easily passed the president’s plan by 273 votes to 156, with both Democrats and Republicans voting yes.

The Senate voted 78-22, in a rare bipartisan show of support for one of Obama’s high-profile initiatives, noted Reuters.

Ten Senate Democrats and 12 Republicans voted no. Some objected to including a “war vote” in a spending bill.

The measure states the new authority does not include approval for “the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities…”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, didn’t rule out using ground forces on Tuesday, fueling fears among congressional Democrats who are worried about another long U.S. military engagement in the Mideast.

Dempsey’s remarks sent a mixed message, and on Wednesday, Obama repeated his pledge that he would not commit combat troops in the region.

Obama’s pledge came after White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Dempsey was referring to a “hypothetical scenario”.

“I think, as was clear from General Dempsey’s remarks, that he was referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation in which he might make a tactical recommendation to the President as it relates to the use of ground troops,” he said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the U.S. continued to strike IS targets in Iraq.

Air strikes are expected in Syria, but Obama has pledged to not authorize a ground operation in either country.

“It is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of our partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries’ futures,” he said on Wednesday.

The approved bill, attached to a larger measure funding the U.S. government after October 1, will only authorize the program until December 11, allowing the measure to be debated at greater length after the US midterm elections.

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