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article imageSaudis offers to train Syrian opposition; needs Congressional OK

By John Presta     Sep 11, 2014 in Politics
Washington - President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the State Floor of the White House on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Obama said the U.S. will destroy ISIL militants and ordered airstrikes in Iraq and, for the first time, in Syria.
In a readout of a phone call with His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, President Obama discussed concerns both countries share in regard to the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The White House confirmed that the Saudis offered to host training for Syrian opposition fighters, but only with Congressional authorization, although the White House readout did not make this clear.
"We have the commitment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," confirmed a White House official during an on-the-record conference call. The official said he received the commitment in a "Trip that I took over the last weekend to the Kingdom, to be a full partner with us in that effort, including by hosting that training program."
One of President Obama's requirements in acting was the cooperation of Middle Eastern countries. A coalition of key countries was essential in success of knocking down ISIL.
The President and the King agreed during their phone call, on the need for increased training and equipping of the moderate Syrian opposition, consistent with the proposal that Obama has made to the United States Congress. Both leaders agreed that a stronger Syrian opposition is essential.
According to Politico, the White House believes it does not need authorization for air strikes against Syria, but does need Congress to ok the Saudi training deal.
A senior White House official said that President Obama does not need the authority from Congress on the air strikes. The official added, "What he does, however, need Congress to do is act on his request to give him the authority to begin the effort to ramp up our assistance in the form of training-and-equipping elements of the Syrian opposition."
According to another White House official, the request was made back in June and that the Department of Defense (DOD) "Does not have current authorization in its Title 10 authorities to train the Syrian moderate opposition. We do not have the authority to provide DOD that authority, so we could mount a train-and-equip program to bolster existing efforts to train and equip the Syrian moderate opposition. That request has yet to be acted on."
Earlier this week, King Abdullah hosted U.S. Secretary John Kerry in Jeddah for a meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The countries included in that meeting were Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey. The GCC will advance efforts to build a regional and international coalition to counter ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
More about Saudi arabia, Syrian opposition fighters, Obama
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