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Source: Obama to move forward with plan to arm Syrian rebels

Source: Obama to move forward with plan to arm Syrian rebels
AMMAR ABD RABBO/CNN
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POSTED: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 10:30am

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 1:46pm

President Barack Obama is in a position to move forward with a plan to arm Syrian rebels, an official said Monday, after concerns raised by Congress were resolved.

The comments came a few hours after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, seemed to clear the path for the plan to proceed.

Some lawmakers had moved to stop the plan from being put into action, citing concerns over a lack of explanation on strategy and questions about how the vetting of groups to receive aid.

"The House Intelligence Committee has very strong concerns about the strength of the administration's plans in Syria and its chances for success," Rogers said in a statement Monday. "After much discussion and review, we got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration's plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations."

But U.S. military involvement in Syria would likely cost billions of dollars and carry a range of risks for the forces involved, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said in a letter released Monday.

"It is no less than an act of war," Dempsey wrote in the letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He also wrote that the United States has learned from the past 10 years "that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state."

But Sen. John McCain has long advocated arming Syrian rebels. The Arizona Republican has also called for taking out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's air assets to create a safe zone for the Syrian opposition.

"I know that we have the military capability to impose a 'no-fly' zone, to crater their runways and their fixed installations where fuel and parts are, and establish a 'no-fly' zone with Patriot missiles," McCain said last month.

"And if we can't do that, then the question ought to be asked to the American taxpayer -- to the Pentagon, 'What in the world are we wasting tens of billions of dollars for defense for if we can't even take care of this situation?'"

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011.

The conflict started when peaceful demonstrators protested against the regime of al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years. After the regime cracked down on protesters, the conflict morphed into a full-blown civil war.

CNN's Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.

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From Jessica Yellin

CNN Chief White House Correspondent 

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