Latest update: March 5th, 2013
The European Union may be preparing to provide weapons training to the rebels fighting Syrian president Bashar Assad, Spiegel reports. Although a statement issued by the organization last week only discussed “technical assistance,” it appears that tha the U.K. and France are ready to provide more “hands-on help,” This as the idea of arming the rebels is gaining popularity.
It should be noted that over the past two years there hasn’t seemed to exist a discernable difference in the degree of cruelty and lack of concern for human life between the two sides. It should also be noted that, by bolstering the Suni rebels, the Western powers would be sentencing the Alawites, Assad’s minority ethnic group, to mass annihilation.
In many ways, the civil war in Syria is turning out to be a war fought between proxies, in which the government forces are supported by Iran and Russia, and now the rebels are picking up the support of the West.
Officially, the statement released by the European Union regarding sanctions against Syria referred only to supplying rebel fighters with “non-lethal military equipment” and “technical assistance for the protection of civilians.”
But Spiegel has learned that this assistance also includes weapons training for rebel troops in their battles against soldiers loyal to Assad. The EU expects that Britain and France will deploy military consultants to support the rebels. But sources within the German government said that Berlin has no plans to send experts.
The U.S. has also announced recently that it would begin supplying non-lethal supplies to opposition forces for the first time.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday that Britain did not rule out providing arms to Syrian rebels in the future.
Despite Germany’s reluctance to get involved in Syria, there are influential voices there calling for sending weapons to the Syrian opposition. Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, has spoken out in favor of arming the rebels.
“The bitter lesson of the Bosnian war is that the policy of not delivering weapons to either side neither curbs nor curtails the conflict,” he told Spiegel. “It is high time that Germany and its partners discuss supporting Syrian rebels with equipment up to and including weapons.”
Ischinger cited the need to protect the Syrian population as well as the strategic interests of Germany and the West. “All we have done so far is lay a foundation for ensuring that we have no friends in post-Assad Syria,” he said.
Ischinger was not concerned with the possibility that the arms would end up in the wrong hands. “If the West supplies arms itself, it has more chance of influencing how they are used,” he argued.
Famous last words?
More than 70,000 Syrians—most of them civilians—have been killed over the past two years. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the borders to Jordan and Turkey, and even more fleeing to shelters within Syria. The EU has so far offered some €200 million in humanitarian relief.
Last Sunday, in an interview with the British Sunday Times, Assad slammed the West for helping his enemies, objecting most strongly to Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that the U.S. would provide medical supplies and other non-lethal aid directly to the rebels, in addition to $60 million in assistance.
Assad said he is ready for dialogue with rebels and militants, but only if they surrender their weapons.
So that’s never.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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