US shifts in the wind, again, on arming Syrian rebels
Five days after dismissing as a "fantasy" the notion that supplying arms to the moderate Syrian opposition would have toppled the Assad regime, President Obama is now asking Congress to approve $500 million to fund and equip "moderate" Syrian rebels, the BBC reports.
"This funding request would build on the administration's longstanding efforts to empower the moderate Syrian opposition, both civilian and armed, and will enable the Department of Defense to increase our support to vetted elements of the armed opposition," the White House claimed.
At this point, it is not entirely clear which vetted elements of the Syrian opposition can be relied upon to keep the arms out of the hands of the jihadists groups who dominate the battlefield, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), and al Qaeda's branch in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front.
As The Long War Journal has documented over the past year at least, in numerous instances previous US efforts to equip 'moderate' Syrian rebels have been compromised by the frequent partnering of 'moderate' and Islamist forces, as well as by the sheer power of the Islamist forces themselves. [See Threat Matrix report, Arming the 'moderate' rebels in the Syrian south.]
It is difficult to see how throwing another $500 million into the Syrian morass will effect a positive outcome. Jihadist forces currently control virtually all of the border crossings into Syria from Turkey and Jordan (not to mention Iraq) through which Western aid would flow. It is a well-known fact that these jihadists determine the distribution of such supplies once they come into Syria.
While the goal of halting the Islamists' advance in Syria and now Iraq is a worthy one, the means put forth so far by the Obama administration have fallen far short. And ironically, it is now the warplanes of the Assad regime that are trying to defend US ally Iraq from the latest incursions of the ISIS.