So that’s not a solution either. Because the FSA is closely aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood forces. Many of its soldiers are Brotherhood, Salafists, or even al-Qaida sympathizers. Some have even been defecting to al-Qaida, presumably with their weapons. The FSA is not ideologically moderate, consistent, or—except for its officers—anti-Islamists. And it is very weak, weaker even then the al-Qaida supporters.
Yet that’s not all. Given the mixing up of the groups and their strategic requirements, a weapons’ system that is given to the FSA may easily end up in the hands of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, Syrian Islamic Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra. That may happen due to the necessities of war or sheer bribery or defections.
And when the war is over or deadlocked, those arms are going to flow out of Syria to every terrorist group in the world.
Finally, how many arms will be needed to bring a rebel victory? You can predict what will happen: more and more will be demanded; if just a bigger force is supplied the rebels will promise victory. It’s a slippery slope. And then will the need for direct intervention be demanded since just the supply of weapons alone isn’t sufficient? How directly is the United States willing to confront Russia, Iran, and Hizballah? Is it prepared to do so? Maybe it should be but it’s not.
So the supposedly simple concept—alas, two years too late—of let’s support the moderates doesn’t mean much anymore. Granted if you want to find the least bad solution, backing the FSA sounds good. In the end, though, what will actually happen?
Ethnic massacres? How is the United States going to stop them? The Alawites, Shia (there are a few) Muslims, and Christians are in the greatest danger, so is anyone not sufficiently a pious Sunni Muslim, and perhaps also Kurds and Druze. The FSA cannot or will not prevent massive killings.
Wasn’t it UN Ambassador Samantha Powers the genocide expert (which shows how little you need to know to be hailed as an expert) who talked about “responsibility to protect?” Didn’t she, and U.S. government policy begin by talking about saving Libyan civilians and end with a Libyan murder of American officials?
Meanwhile the UN has asked for $5 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria, much of which will go to neighboring countries to help refugees. There are now said to be 1.6 million refugees with that number perhaps to double by the end of the year. The need is desperate. Up to one-half the population of the country needs help.
But who would administer that help? Presumably, no aid would be handed out to the regime to use in areas it controls so other than Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon to help refugees the money would end up in the hands of al-Qaida, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood to steal, pay their own people salaries, and use to consolidate their power over different areas.
The United States is considering taking in hundreds of thousands of people who would probably be mostly resettled in California, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Power and National Security Council director Susan Rice are known to favor receiving many refugees.
Yet the policy is based on an illusion. Let’s say that weapons are given to the rebels. Will they win the war? Will that reduce civilian casualties? Which side will kill more people? Is a rebel victory going to make Syria a better place, more of a democracy? How many more refugees would a rebel victory generate? Say about 30 percent are Alawites, Christians, and Druze who would be oppressed by a rebel triumph, as would relatively secular Sunni urban middle class Muslims. They might flee the country. How many new wars will come out of the Syrian civil war?
This does not in any way mean one should want the Assad regime—which is a pro-Iran, pro-Hizballah, oppressive and anti-American government—to win. Yet it isn’t winning the war but merely making local gains to control the minimum territory for its survival.
Let’s put it this way: a U.S. and Western intervention in Syria is more problematic than the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya put together. It very well might produce a worse political solution than in Egypt (where cabinet members discuss how the United States is an enemy against which war might be waged) or Tunisia. It can almost be guaranteed to be worse than Iraq.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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