President Breaks Arms Export Laws to Send Shipments to Syrian "Rebels"

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
President Breaks Arms Export Laws to Send Shipments to Syrian "Rebels"

In an announcement made on Monday, President Obama declared his intent to waive applicable arms export rules in order to send chemical weapons defenses to Syrian rebels.

The motto of the Obama administration seems to be, “He who rules the waves may waive the rules.”

According to a story published by The Hill, “President Obama has waived federal regulations on U.S. arms sales to begin supplying anti-chemical weapons equipment to rebel forces in Syria.”

Under applicable (until now) provisions of the Arms Export Control Act, the president may not authorize shipment of any item included in the U.S. Munitions List. 

Paragraphs (a)-(c) of Category XIV specifically outlaw exporting “chemical agents” or “equipment for dissemination, detection, and identification of, and defense against” those agents.

Furthermore, Section 121.7(e) names “nerve agents, gases, and aerosols” under the definition of the chemical agents that the government may not export.

In America in 2013, the law, it seems, is whatever President Obama says it is.

In fact, The Hill reports that National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that the statutes forbidding these exports now no longer apply to “"international organizations ... [and] select vetted members of the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council.”

"This action is part of longstanding and ongoing efforts to provide life-saving chemical weapons-related assistance to people in need in Syria," Hayden added, as stated in the article.

Readers will notice that the Arms Export Control Act does not contain such an exemption. In fact, the law explicitly purports to prevent the president from making such unilateral decisions, especially as it pertains to chemical weapons and defenses to their use.

Despite breaking the law, flouting the separation of powers, and sending forbidden chemical agent defenses to known agents of al-Qaeda, the president’s actions will make it very difficult for international regulators “to track and contain those weapons stockpiles.”

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