Sunday, February 19, 2012
Syrian rebels must not be armed
World powers have made it clear in the past few weeks that military intervention in Syria seems distant and two U.S. congressmen said they are in favor of arming Syria rebels who have right to defend themselves. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham claimed that Syrian regime is being financed by Iran and that a byproduct of a more interventionist policy in Syria would be to weaken Iran. Arming Syrian rebels might seem the only way out of this current impasse, but it is problematic in many ways.
First, Syrian people have lived under senior and junior Assads for four decades and no matter how brutal regime it is, current spate of daily killings is no better alternative. For this reason, end of violence is more priority than nudging Assad to the door or weakening Iran strategically. Arming Syrian rebels surely wouldn't help advance this cause.
Second, it is hard to predict when the uprising will bring Assad’s end or when the country will edge toward a peaceful political transition. Arming Syrian rebels could mean pouring more fuel on a burning house and may spawn an era of perennial fight among different Syrian factions. The US or any other country must avoid arming Syrian rebels unless they clearly know what the consequences of such a move would be. Arms supplying countries must also know that the rebels will have a decisive victory instead of massacring the other side once they are given more arms.
Third, Syrian rebels have sufficient amount of weaponry to defend themselves and territories they captured. What they lack is manpower and ability to defend civilian population in areas where Assad tanks are constantly shelling. Assad forces are attacking with tanks and armored vehicles and it is basically hard to counter them by Kalashnikovs. Except anti-tank rocket launchers, what kind of weaponry disorganized Syrian rebels could use?
Fourth, instead of seeking ways how to give the uprising in Syria a military tone, the international community must find ways to persuade the Iranian regime to stop funding Assad. Military operation is an expensive business and Syria is currently under heavy economic burden. Linking Syrian uprising to Iran’s strategic position in the region will not help. The international community must make compromises to Iran in nuclear talks or through some other ways in exchange for the Islamic republic’s halt to funding Syria. This seems unrealistic at the moment but so does arming Syrian rebels when the outcome and trajectory of the uprising is unknown.