WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013 — The Obama administration’s decision to arm the Syrian rebels was made with the promise that U.S. weapons would not get into “the wrong hands.” But reports show that nefarious forces in Syria, including both pro-Assad fighters and the Islamic extremists trying to oust him, have already obtained U.S. weapons.
Many in Washington have been clamoring for greater U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, in which more than 90,000 people have been killed. Under the pretext of “humanitarian intervention,” the idea is to help a select number of “vetted” rebel groups topple the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But “U.S. and Western weapons have been reaching Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting to keep Bashar Assad’s forces in power in Syria,” USA Today reported this week.
While “it’s unclear if the weapons were captured, stolen or bought on the black market in Syria, Turkey, Iraq or Libya,” the fact remains that Syria is overflowing with foreign-supplied weapons, and determining who receives them is close to impossible.
What kind of credibility does the U.S. have to get involved in another bloody war in the Middle East on the basis of humanitarianism if American weapons are getting into the hands of the very regime we’re supposedly trying to save people from?
Those who opposed providing weapons from the very beginning predicted that U.S. weapons would get into the wrong hands in Syria. According to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-FL), former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “no amount of safeguards can guarantee that weapons will not fall into the wrong hands.”
Actually, this phenomenon is not new in the Syrian conflict. Despite President Obama’s initial reluctance to directly arm the rebels, the U.S. was indirectly sending arms into Syria from early on.
In June 2012, it was reported that the CIA was secretly facilitating the delivery of weapons to the Syrian rebels through U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.
According to officials, the U.S. only steered weapons to “vetted” rebel groups that were secular and moderate. But “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, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster,” The New York Times reported in October 2012.
The “jihadist” rebels mentioned here refer to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that has not only committed vicious war crimes but was added to the State Department’s list of official terrorist organizations last year. Groups like al-Nusra and its fighting allies despise Western secularism, aim to set up sharia law, and are expected to carry out ethnic cleansing of pro-Assad Shiite groups if they gain any power in Syria.
So in its quest to reduce the horrible violence in Syria, the Obama administration, with considerable Republican support, has so far aided pro-Assad militias and Islamic terrorist groups, both of whom have been accused of cruel human rights violations.
Dr. Florence Gaub, a researcher at the NATO Defense College, has written that outside forces cannot end the Syrian civil war. Critically, a political settlement is implausible so long as either side believes they have the upper hand. And, thanks to foreign support, both sides are so emboldened.
“A continuous supply of weapons to both sides—whether from Russia, Iran or the Gulf States—only maintains the parties’ perception that fighting is a better option than negotiating,” Gaub writes. “This explains why, in terms of statistical probability, an external supply of weapons lengthens a civil war.”
Washington gets ahead of itself in its imperial ambitions. The crafters of U.S. foreign policy have an insatiable craving to intervene in every corner of the planet. With military bases spanning the world, every single president goes to war, covertly or overtly, and usually several times each.
But after nearly 12 years of constant war, perhaps Washington should listen to the American people. About 60 percent of American voters oppose sending weapons to Syrian rebels and think it is not in the national interest to be involved in Syria at all.
The U.S. has no business getting involved in a chaotic civil war in Syria. Claims of humanitarian intentions are not credible, given who has received U.S. weapons so far, and any substantial military intervention would only make things worse. The question is whether a fumbling, war-prone Washington can muster the good sense the American people have.
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