The House voted for the first time today to explicitly authorize the incoming Donald Trump administration to arm vetted Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.
While the language in the annual defense bill also creates restrictions on the provision of the controversial weapons, it represents a win for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., a fervent advocate of helping the rebels resist President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. The Senate is expected to pass the bill next week.
Until now, the transfer of man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADs, had been implicitly authorized in the absence of an outright ban. Critics, however, view the new provision as tantamount to a policy recommendation for the president-elect.
“I’m more afraid of Congress on this issue than I am of Trump,” said Robert Naiman, policy director at Just Foreign Policy, a liberal advocacy group that lobbied for a ban. “I think Congress is trying to tie Trump’s hands against making a realistic deal with Russia to end the Syrian civil war. And they are trying to pressure him in the direction of not doing that,” he told Al-Monitor.