As Talks Continue, CIA Gets Some Weapons To Syrian Rebels
It's Day Two of talks in Geneva between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who are seeing if they can come to an agreement on Russia's suggestion that Syria hand over its chemical weapons to international monitors — and thus avert a possible strike by the U.S. military.
As the diplomats negotiate, NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been following up on Thursday's claim by the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army that his forces have not yet received any "lethal aid" — in the form of weapons — from the U.S.
On Morning Edition, Tom said U.S. sources with knowledge of what's happening say that "the weapons are starting to move into Syria" thanks to a "covert CIA program." Some "moderate" rebel groups are being supplied with small arms, Tom is being told.
-- If Russia and the U.S. can agree on a plan for putting Syria's chemical weapons under the control of international monitors, they may then be able to reactivate efforts to hold an international peace conference that aims to end the brutal conflict, NPR's Michele Kelemen reports from Geneva.
The Washington Post adds that "the remarks by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were the first explicit indication that the diplomacy begun this week to resolve the immediate crisis of threatened U.S. military strikes could be a gateway to a broader negotiation aimed at ending the 2 1/2-year-old conflict."
It may be, he added, that Free Syrian Army Gen. Salim Idris just isn't aware yet of what's happening because communications are bad inside Syria and because he's in the north of the country while the weapons are reportedly arriving in the south.
Among the morning's other stories:
-- Moving Stockpiles. "A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime's chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials." (The Wall Street Journal)
-- Executions. "Syrian government and pro-government forces executed at least 248 people in the towns of al-Bayda and Baniyas on May 2 and 3, 2013, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. It was one of the deadliest instances of mass summary executions since the start of the conflict in Syria."
-- Progress In Talks. "Kerry and Lavrov have been making more optimistic noises after meeting the international envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi. They told a press conference they were hopeful that talks on Syria's chemical weapons would help revive an international plan for a "Geneva 2" conference to end the war in Syria." (The Guardian)
-- U.N. Resolution Not Expected To Include Military Option: According to Reuters, which quotes unnamed Obama officials, the U.S. doesn't expect a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria to threaten the use of military force, if chemical disarmament fails.
The U.S., said the officials, will insist on a "range of consequences," including "increased sanctions."
Thursday's post: U.S. Rejects Assad's Timetable For A Chemical Weapons Deal