I mentioned this in the earlier Syria post but it’s worth repeating in light of WaPo’s bombshell this afternoon. A quote from this weekend’s NYT: “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”
President Obama is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian opposition and has taken steps to assert more aggressive U.S. leadership among allies and partners seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, according to senior administration officials.
The officials emphasized that political negotiation remains the preferred option. To that end, the administration has launched a new effort to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin that the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government — and the more direct outside intervention that could provoke — should lead him to reconsider his support of Assad…
[T]he senior official, one of several who discussed internal administration deliberations on the condition of anonymity, said Obama has “not closed the door to other military actions,” in response to calls from the opposition, and some members of Congress, for protection against Syrian ballistic missiles and air attacks…
Disputes among [allied] countries, particularly between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, over which rebel military faction to back has led to rising U.S. concern that sophisticated weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, are being sent directly to Islamist extremist groups. The administration is not prepared to send missiles itself, but believes it can gain more control over others’ supplies if it puts what an official called “more skin in the game” by sending its own lethal equipment.
We’re going to limit the supply of weapons by adding our own weapons? I.e. because we’re sending antitank munitions, say, the Saudis are going to stop sending them SAMs? I’m … highly skeptical that that’s true since Sunni powers in the region are now jockeying for influence over whatever degenerate Islamist faction ultimately ends up on top after Assad is gone. The best way to increase their leverage is to give the rebels the weapons they ask for. If they want SAMs, it’s SAMs they’ll get. And if America’s kicking in too, so much the better for the Saudis et al. — it means the final rebel victory and the ascendance of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is that much closer to happening.
Explain something to me. How did we get from “Assad’s chemical weapons must be confiscated” to “we must arm Assad’s opponents”? The big takeaway from today’s presser was that Obama himself wouldn’t commit to the idea that it was Assad rather than the rebels who are responsible for the previous chemical incidents in Syria. The only way to get from point A, i.e. WMD disarmament, to point B, i.e. regime change, is if the Pentagon’s concluded that there’s no way to confiscate Assad’s chemical arsenal with U.S. or Jordanian troops. The only way is to make a deal with the rebels that we’ll give them conventional weapons now in return for them giving us Assad’s chemical weapons later once they’ve taken over. You trust them to honor a deal like that, don’t you? Meanwhile, with the U.S. finally wading in against him, there’s arguably less deterring Assad from going full chemical now than there was yesterday. This is obviously punishment for him having allegedly crossed the “red line.” No reason not to cross it again, at least on a small scale.