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Bridget Johnson


January 29, 2013 - 7:19 am

President Obama today announced $155 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people — in English and Arabic.

Obama issued a memorandum this morning invoking the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to tap into emergency funds, stating “that it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance under the Act, in an amount not to exceed $15 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund, for the purpose of meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs, including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations and payment of administrative expenses of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, resulting from the crisis in Syria.”

This fourth presidential determination of the new year was followed by a video — clearly targeted toward the Arab world — explaining the total assistance commitment.

“We’ve worked to isolate Assad and his regime; impose sanctions that starve the regime of funds; recognize the Syrian Opposition Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people; call for accountability for perpetrators of atrocities; and provide humanitarian relief to Syrians in need,” Obama said. “The relief we send doesn’t say ‘Made in America,’ but make no mistake—our aid reflects the commitment of the American people.”

The new allocation will bring America’s total humanitarian aid to Syria to $365 million as the West faces mounting criticism from Syrians for letting Bashar Assad’s strikes on civilians continue unabated.

“Here, I want to speak directly to the people of Syria. This new aid will mean more warm clothing for children and medicine for the elderly; flour and wheat for your families and blankets, boots and stoves for those huddled in damaged buildings. It will mean health care for victims of sexual violence and field hospitals for the wounded,” Obama said. “Even as we work to end the violence against you, this aid will help address some of the immediate needs you face each day.”

The donation appears to be a preemptive response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s planned pledge-a-thon tomorrow at a conference in Kuwait, with a fundraising target of $1.5 billion to help Syrian civilians. More than 700,000 Syrians have fled the country and tens of thousands have been slaughtered.

Obama called on the international community to do more.

“We’re under no illusions. The days ahead will continue to be very difficult. But what’s clear is that the regime continues to weaken and lose control of territory. The opposition continues to grow stronger. More Syrians are standing up for their dignity. The Assad regime will come to an end,” he said. “The Syrian people will have their chance to forge their own future. And they will continue to find a partner in the United States of America.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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