The Obama administration is considering a similar approach. But because of U.S. law, the money would be given “in coordination with the SOC” and would be carried into Syria by nongovernmental organizations already distributing American aid, a U.S. official said.
The coalition was formed last month, under the tutelage of the United States and regional governments, as a last-ditch effort to bring disparate forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under an umbrella that could lure his remaining supporters away from him. Since then, international backers have moved rapidly to bolster its legitimacy by providing diplomatic recognition and money for it to dole out to local groups.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other leaders plan to announce increased funding at a Friends of Syria meeting next week in Morocco, even as the United States continues to reject direct military aid to Syrian rebels.
Clinton is also expected to announce U.S. recognition of the group as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people, anointing it as the transition authority that would take over after Assad’s anticipated fall and following in the footsteps of France, Britain, Spain, Italy and other nations. U.S. officials, who were not authorized to discuss the issue, said a final administration decision awaited Clinton’s return from a European trip this week.
“Now that there is a new opposition formed, we are going to be doing what we can to support that opposition,” Clinton told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. She urged a political settlement, which the Syrian regime has steadfastly rejected, and said Assad’s fall is “inevitable.”
In the meantime, Clinton said, the United States is worried about what Assad might do as his hold on power slips, repeating fears expressed earlier in the week by President Obama and others.
“Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or might lost control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria,” Clinton said.
She spoke at NATO headquarters, where the alliance on Tuesday approved Patriot antimissile defenses for Turkey. Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO is still opposed to wider air protection for rebels inside Syria.
With a steady flow of arms from foreign supporters in the region and weapons seized from overtaken Assad arsenals, rebel forces have scored impressive recent gains, clearing government troops from the border with Turkey and scoring tactical victories in the suburbs of Damascus, the capital.