The U.S. military’s involvement (or lack thereof) in the Syrian civil war that has been taking place over the past few years has been a point of contention both within the U.S. and around the world. After a chemical attack killed and injured thousands, the debate as to whether or not the Obama administration would respond with a military strike dominated discussion within the U.S. and the U.N. governing bodies.
Before the extended debate surrounding that issue took place, the United States government had approved the CIA to begin delivering weapons to Syrian rebels. After a few months of delay following the Syrian chemical attack, the shipments of those weapons recently began. The arms sent to the country include light weaponry that can be tracked by the United States.
One of the major issues in the Syria-involvement debate was that none of the sides — the rebel groups or al-Assad’s government — appears to be an advantageous ally for the United States. There are reports that several of the rebel factions actually have ties and allegiances to al-Qaeda, the major terrorist organization targeted during the U.S.’s War on Terror.
The Atlantic Wire reports that many of the Syrian rebels to which the CIA is sending weapons could legally be considered terrorists under antiterrorism legislation such as the Patriot Act and the Real ID Act. These laws restrict access to the United States to any individual that is a member of a long list of terrorist groups. It also denies “anyone who has given any kind of ‘material support’— transportation, shelter, money— to such groups,” the Atlantic Wire reports.
Syria has been experiencing a large wave of emigration due to the country’s conflict, and many question how these refugees will be treated by countries such as the United States that have anti-terrorist provisions.
Melanie Nezer, senior director for policy and advocacy of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society spoke on the issue to the Wire, stating, “Material support is defined so broadly that immigrants can be turned away for giving members of rebel groups a bowl of rice or a few dollars.”
Just as the U.S.’s foreign policy stance in the Syria issue remains complex, its support for and relationships with the numerous terrorist-aligned rebel groups in the country remain unclear.