2 years ago
One month ago I advocated here that arming selected groups of Syrian rebels would best serve the U.S. national interests in the Middle East.
According to this report, however, it appears that the Obama Administration is on the verge of outsourcing this important task to Islamist countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. (Hat Tip Drudge Report)
The US and its allies have warned president Bashar al-Assad that unless he halts his attacks on the Syrian population and implements a UN-backed peace plan, the rebels fighting him will be given more weapons,[sic]
The move, made at an Istanbul conference of the Friends of Syria, a grouping of more than 70 countries, in effect gives Washington’s blessing to a Saudi Arabian bid to arm the opposition.
It contrasts with the administration’s previous stance that arming the rebels could drag Syria deeper into civil war and increase the risk of innocent people being killed.
US officials made clear there was no prospect of Washington itself providing the rebels with weapons, not least because of a UN arms embargo on Syria. Countries such as the UK and Turkey also rule out arming the opposition themselves.
But all three signalled [sic] on Sunday that they could welcome Saudi and Qatari efforts to give weapons to the rebel Free Syrian Army.
If this report is at all accurate, it serves as further proof that this Administration cannot find its own rear end when it comes to U.S. interests.
First, arming the Syrian rebels only makes sense to the extent that the rebels serve U.S. interests to some extent in exchange for weapons and other support. As pointed out in my prior post, there are many groups of fighters in Syria vying for dominance in the struggle to overthrow the Assad Regime. The U.S. has important national interests in ensuring that the Regime is not replaced with an Islamist one. Now is the time to identify and nurture any rebel groups in Syria that oppose an Islamist takeover. Second, if we are not going to step on the scales in favor of rebels friendly to U.S. interests, we certainly should not be supporting efforts to arm rebels who are hostile to the U.S.
All of this is elementary stuff. It should be crystal clear to the White House that the last people to entrust with arming the Syrian rebels are the Saudis and Qataris, some of the biggest Islamists on the planet.
It is, perhaps, understandable that the U.S. may want to filter military aid through another country to preserve at least a shred of plausible deniability. But the Saudis and Qataris? For God’s sake, there must be someone less noxious who would be willing to funnel weapons to the rebels than these extremist countries.
It is almost as though the Obama Administration had no clue that U.S. interests do not align with those of Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Turkey, for that matter). We can only hope that this sort of bad policy is the result of clownish incompetence and not deliberate.