Father of Eric Harroun Invokes Obama’s Name to Defend Son

Freedom Fighter in Syria Served in U.S. Army a Decade Ago

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U.S. Army veteran Eric Harroun was arrested by federal agents Wednesday upon landing at Dulles International Airport in Virginia after spending a few months in Syria fighting against President Bashar Assad's regime. Federal authorities allege Harroun, 30, used a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) while fighting with a known terrorist organization. The al-Nusrah Front is an alias of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group designated as a terrorist group since October 2004. Darryl Harroun, father of the accused, told ABC15 in Phoenix his son is "working with the same rebels Obama is going to fund."

Why was Harroun arrested?

An RPG is a weapon of mass destruction, according to the Washington Post. Even though the Army veteran was fighting to oust Assad, ABC15 notes laws about using a weapon of mass destruction apply to all U.S. citizens and no exceptions are made for anyone fighting a hostile regime. At one point, the soldier told the FBI he shot 10 people but it was unknown whether or not any deaths resulted from his actions. If convicted, the young man faces life in prison.

Why did his father invoke President Obama's name?

President Barack Obama allegedly signed a secret order in 2012 authorizing U.S. agencies such as the CIA to provide support to rebel forces in Syria, according to Reuters. The type of support includes helping to run a secret military communications command center in Turkey to aid rebel groups. The Reuters article also states U.S. citizens are training rebels and possibly giving them equipment, at least since the summer. Darryl Harroun told the ABC affiliate in Phoenix he believed his son was working for the CIA and doesn't "understand what these charges are about."

What is the veteran's connection to Syria?

The government alleges Harroun entered Syria in January. The Post story indicates the veteran went to Turkey in November before crossing into Syria nearly three months ago. Harroun then admitted to the FBI he fought alongside rebels for a month and was involved in seven to 10 battles. He returned to Turkey where the FBI spoke to the freedom fighter at the consulate in Istanbul.

What about Harroun's military service?

The Washington Times reported Harroun's death in mid-March, citing a video posted by a pro-Assad group that shows a dead body that looks like the young man. The Times called the Phoenix resident a "Muslim convert." He was discharged in 2003 as a private first class after joining the military in 2000. Darryl Harroun said his family knew their son was in Syria and that he "loves that part of the world," according to the Washington Post piece.

William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics.

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