US Secretly Funded Syrian Opposition
Diplomatic cables show $6M went to one group
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2011 6:54 AM CDT
Updated Apr 18, 2011 7:48 AM CDT
In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and acquired by the AP, words are seen written on the street by anti-government protesters, in Banias, Syria, Sunday, April 17, 2011.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Newly released diplomatic cables show that the US State Department has secretly funded opposition groups in Syria, as well as a London-based satellite TV channel that offers anti-government programming. The cables, released by WikiLeaks, show that the State Department has given as much as $6 million since 2006 to the Movement for Justice and Development, a network of Syrian exiles that is closely affiliated with Barada TV. George W. Bush began funneling the money after freezing political ties with Damascus the year before, but President Obama has continued the practice, the Washington Post reports.

Cables show that in 2007, US officials mentioned the possibility of helping the Movement for Justice and Development launch an opposition TV channel, though no one involved will confirm that. But more recently, as Obama looked to rebuild a relationship with Syria, US Embassy officials became concerned about the involvement with opposition figures. Syrian officials "would undoubtedly view any US funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change," reads one cable. According to the cables, money was set aside for opposition groups through at least September 2010; it's not clear whether the State Department continues to fund them.