Which Syrian Rebel Groups Should Get Arms?
The quagmire that is the state of affairs in Syria has no easy solution. The civilized world is in agreement that President Bashar al-Assad must go. Only time will tell whether his (eventual?) departure leaves a power vacuum to be exploited by Jihadist extremists. The immediate issue for governments opposed to Assad is which “rebel” groups to arm. Assad’s external enemies may elect to arm his internal enemies. However, will those arms remain in the fight against Assad or will they fall into the hands of Jihadists to be used against those who originally supplied the arms? There are no easy answers:
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Mainstream rebels in southern Syria say foreign states have stepped up weapons supplies to them since Damascus launched an offensive early last month to regain the frontier zone near Jordan and Israel.
This suggests President Bashar al-Assad’s Arab and Western enemies want to help preserve the last major foothold of what they call the moderate opposition, although the rebels say the equipment still falls short of their needs.
The rebels declined to give details, or say which states had supplied the weapons. The Southern Front groups have previously received military aid via Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally.
Some of the southern rebel groups have received U.S.-made anti-tank weapons, though they have long described the quantities as small. In addition to the United States, Assad’s foreign opponents include Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Mainstream rebels in northern Syria suffered their most recent setback with the collapse of the Hazzm movement, a U.S.-backed group that dissolved itself earlier this month after coming under attack from the Nusra Front.
The weakness of the mainstream groups is a big complication for U.S. planners who want to arm and train rebels to fight Islamic State. The Nusra Front is also active in the south but has avoided conflict with the mainstream groups there.
Assad’s foreign opponents could yet use the Southern Front to apply the kind of pressure needed to force a political compromise. Diplomatic efforts towards ending the Syrian conflict, which is in its fifth year, are getting nowhere.