The War to Come in Syria
John Glaser, AntiWar.com, Feb 28 2013
The pressure for Washington to add more heft to their support for the Syrian rebels is heating up again. Jackass Kerry announced today that the US will, for what Reuters describes as the first time, send “non-lethal aid” directly to Syrian rebels; that is, directly as opposed to through third parties, which is reportedly what they’ve been doing until now. Kerry said the US will “more than double its aid” to the Syrian opposition, while also offering “equipment, medical supplies, and other non-lethal assistance.” At least according to reports, Obama still refuses to provide the rebels with weapons directly, although several US allies are doing that dirty work for him. But many in Washington are pushing hard for directly sending weapons: Marco Rubio told an audience at WINEP this week that the US should be sending ammunition. Additionally, a top Democrat in the House, Eliot Engel, is planning to introduce legislation “to allow the president to arm the rebels,” he explained on ABC’s This Week. Neither Washington nor its allies have any way to control where the aid goes once it’s in Syria, despite the constant talk of a “vetting process” aimed at funneling support to moderate elements of the rebels and keeping it away from extremist elements that are aligned with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. In October, the NYT wrote
Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists.
Those weapons were being sent with US approval and coordination. Even if the US and its allies manage to bolster the rebels enough to topple the Assad regime, the war doesn’t end there. Daniel Trombly raises the question of the current splits in the disparate Syrian rebel opposition and how those will be exacerbated in a post-Assad scramble for power in Syria. Our involvement would eventually pit rebel group against rebel group and these are sufficient ingredients for an ongoing civil war even if Assad were out of the picture.
In Libya, the government let extremist organizations with anti-Western tendencies tear apart shrines, Western graveyards, and attack diplomats almost without consequence, despite NATO’s direct intervention to help topple Gaddafi. In Syria, where extremist groups are even better organized and armed relative to their secular and mainstream Islamist counterparts, escalating conflict with Jihadis and opening a second stage to the Syrian civil war is even more dangerous. Western support for secularists and amenable Islamists will not cow Jihadis into disarming. As Jihadica points out, posters on Shumukh al Islam are already asserting that what happens after the fall of the regime is of even greater concern than the war against the regime itself. Let’s be clear of what the US would need the secularists and Islamists to undertake to stamp out the Jihadis in Syria. Not simply unite, not simply win, but maintain the motive and capability to fight and kill their one-time partners once they have finished with the regime. This is not a mere competition for influence, it will be war.
Extremist groups still operate freely in Libya (you know, the last country Washington “liberated”). And in Iraq, as Trombly points out, Jihadis that were never there prior to the US war are still “raising hell” and destabilizing the country despite exorbitant amounts of US aid, weapons, and training to the government and its security forces.