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MENA Mashup: Rand Paul, al Qaeda, Iran, and Syria

Well, it’s official folks…

Rand Paul: My colleagues just voted to arm the allies of al Qaeda

… Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blasted members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, which voted overwhelmingly to arm elements of the Syrian opposition in a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). “This is an important moment,” Paul said, addressing his Senate colleagues. “You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”

The legislation, which would authorize the shipment of arms and military training to rebels “that have gone through a thorough vetting process,” passed in a bipartisan 15-3 vote. Paul offered an amendment that would strike the bill’s weapons provision, but it was rejected along with another Paul amendment ruling out the authorization of the use of military force in Syria. (Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy was the only senator to join Paul in support of the weapons amendment.)

The dispute centers on the issue of whether the United States could properly vet Syrian rebels so that weapons and body armor would not fall into the hands of extremist groups, such as the al Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra Front. The Pentagon’s top brass has vacillated about whether it’s logistically possible to keep track of weapons as they enter a conflict involving a complex mix of opposition groups, as the new bill would require…

As Antiwar’s John Glaser noted…

For more than a year, the CIA has been facilitating the delivery of arms from countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Syrian rebel groups, although the Obama administration has stopped short of a decision to directly arm the rebels. This bill is aimed at pushing the president in that direction.

“The evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda,” The New York Times almost a year ago. And in the past year, that reality has metastasized, with Jabhat al-Nusra – categorized by the State Department as an official terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda – developing into the rebels’ main fighting force.

Rand Paul was evidently skeptical of claims that rebels receiving arms will be vetted to ensure extremists don’t receive them. And with good reason: the process is made up of untrustworthy, third-party sources and intelligence officials told the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times as far back as a year ago that the truth is that the U.S. doesn’t know who is getting the money and weapons

Now, about those possible Peace Talks, in Geneva, once again…

The Syrian rebels, U.S. disagree on peace talks

The Syrian opposition said Wednesday it welcomes the promise of increased U.S. involvement in finding a solution to two years of war, but that it would not accept peace talks if top members of the regime of Bashar Assad are involved.

The stand of the country’s leading opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, is in direct conflict with the peace talks that the Obama administration are seeking to help organize next month in Geneva…

…”We hope the U.S. will lead the international role to solving the conflict,” said Khaled Saleh, spokesman for the Syria National Coalition. “The coalition welcomes any solution as long as it meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people but it must start with the departure of Assad.”

Saleh repeated that the rebellion needs the United States and other Western nations to impose a no-fly zone over Syria to stop Assad’s warplanes as well as strategic military strikes on government positions. Kerry on Wednesday threatened to give non-lethal aid, such as medical kits and food, to the rebels if Assad did not join talks.

Meanwhile, Syria submits five names for possible peace talks…

However, that was not the end of the Senate’s foreign f*ckery today…

US: We’ll back Israel if it defends itself against Iranian nuke threat

The US Senate decided unanimously to support Israel should it pursue military actions to defend itself against the Iranian nuclear threat. The decision’s sponsors are the Foreign Affair Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D) and senior Senator Lindsay Graham (R).

According to the resolution, the US will furnish Israel with diplomatic, military and economic support to defend its territory, citizens and existence. The resolution also determines that the US policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and take the necessary steps to pursue this policy.

Who’s defending against whom…?

*gah*

Here’s a bonus clip with RT’s Abby Martin interviewing Dr. Noam Chomsky that was published yesterday…

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