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US Secretly Funded Syrian Opposition

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TEHRAN, April 18 (ICANA) – The U.S. State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.
Monday, April 18, 2011 7:54:09 PM
US Secretly Funded Syrian Opposition

According to WikiLeaks, several U.S. diplomatic cables from the embassy in Damascus reveal that Syrian exiles received money from a State Department program called the Middle East Partnership Initiative. According to the cables, the State Department funneled money to the exile group via the Democracy Council, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. Washingtonpost.com

The secret project included the financing of the London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, which began broadcasting against Syria's government in April 2009. Novinite.com

The April 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus states that the Democracy Council received $6.3 million from the State Department to run a Syria-related program called the "Civil Society Strengthening Initiative." Washington Post

That program is described as "a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners" to produce, among other things, "various broadcast concepts." Other cables make clear that one of those concepts was Barada TV. Washington Post

It is unclear whether the State Department is still funding Syrian opposition groups, but the cables indicate money was set aside at least through September 2010. Washington Post

While some of that money has also supported programs and dissidents inside Syria, The Washington Post is withholding certain names and program details at the request of the State Department, which said disclosure could endanger the recipients' personal safety. Washington Post

The U.S. started financing Syrian opposition groups in 2006, under George W. Bush's presidency, when diplomatic ties with the Arab country were frozen. The financial backing has continued under President Barack Obama, even though his administration tried to revamp relations with Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Novinite.com

The reports of secret funding of Assad's rivals comes as human rights groups said scores of people have been killed by Assad's security forces since a public uprising began on March 18. Syria has blamed the violence on "armed gangs." Expressindia.com

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced Saturday that the 48 year old emergency law would be lifted by next week. Addressing the nation in a speech to a new cabinet, President Assad said that the old state of emergency imposed back in 1963 would be lifted by next week but warned that new laws in the works would not be lenient toward what he called sabotage. Panorama.am

Lifting the emergency law, which has suspended most constitutional protections for Syrians since 1963, has been a key demand during protests that spread across Syria after popular uprisings toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. Financialexpress.com

Assad said stability remained his priority but said that reform was needed to strengthen the internal front. Further he vowed to bring those who were responsible for violence to justice. Panorama.am

Syria is a young state that got its independence from the French mandate in 1946. The political system was established as a parliamentarian democracy. Turkishweekly.net

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