Gulf fund’s problems highlight Syria-aid-challenge
‘Issue is how to make sure money gets to the right
US: Two weeks after their bold promise, Saudi Arabia and other
wealthy Arab Gulf states have yet to start distributing money from a
multimillion-dollar fund designed to prop up Syria's rebels and entice
defections from President Bashar Assad's army, Syrian opposition members
and international officials say. The cash program was outlined this
month at a conference in Istanbul, where representatives of the United
States and more than 60 other nations met to strengthen Syria's
opposition and increase pressure on the Assad regime.
Hoping to crack Assad's support, Washington and its Arab partners
seized on the plan as a path forward even as they disagreed on the idea
of giving weapons to badly outgunned Syrian rebels.
But the fund's implementation is already beset by problems -
basically, how to get the money there and how to make sure it gets to
the right people. There's no way to monitor where the money goes as the
country veers toward civil war. Because the rebels hold no territory and
struggle even to maintain communications among inside and outside Syria,
there is no clear way to deliver the money.
The problems underscore the larger problem to providing aid of any
kind to the Syrian rebellion.
The Obama administration recently signed off on $12 million in
enhanced communications, medical and other “nonlethal” assistance to the
opposition, but it is unclear what goods are making their way into Syria
and by what means.
Even the recipients are largely unknown, with American officials
themselves saying they are still trying to get to know Syria's armed and
political opposition better.
Other Arab and European countries have made similar pledges of aid
that Syrians say they haven't seen - five days into a U.N.-brokered
cease-fire that was supposed to allow greater humanitarian and other
relief to enter the country.
But Assad's government has launched more artillery attacks on
opposition strongholds, continuing a year of violent repression that has
killed more than 9,000 people and put into doubt international aid