McCain and Lieberman Meet With Syrian Rebels

Meeting elements of the opposition along the Turkish-Syrian border, the senators call for arming the rebels

After months of advocating direct military intervention against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) have made a surprise trip to the Turkish-Syrian border to meet with leaders of the Free Syrian Army and visit Syrian refugees who have fled violence in their own country.

The senators’ trip was strategically and politically planned. On the first official day of the ceasefire agreement brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan to end attacks by government forces and halt the insurgency vying for international support, the visit is meant to give legitimacy to the Syrian opposition fighters and rally Washington to arm them.

“We respect Mr. Annan’s desire to find an end to the killing in Syria. Unfortunately, Bashar al-Assad does not share this goal. That fact has been clear to many of us for months, but it should now be undeniable for everyone,” the senators said.

Their statement intentionally omits any mention of the fact that elements of the opposition have flouted and rejected Annan’s peace plan, refusing to cease violence. Other elements of the opposition – which is too fractured and unorganized to have a single voice – have rhetorically accepted Annan’s plan, while acting very differently. This, incidentally, precisely describes Assad’s approach, which the senators do not forget to mention.

Allying with the rebel fighters in a bid to oust the Assad regime is a grave mistake for the U.S. The opposition is unorganized, has itself committed serious crimes, and contains elements of religious extremists. Using them as a proxy to topple the Assad government, then, seems tactically impossible

It’s also strategically dangerous, considering they have no capacity to form a government post-Assad. Finally, ousting Assad fits rather conveniently into America’s imperial plans for the Middle East, especially since it would isolate Washington’s foremost enemy Iran.

But intervention would escalate killing. Syria, like Iraq after the American invasion, would likely descend into chaos.

The U.S. and its allies – like the Assad regime – have endorsed the peace process, while refusing to halt their own reportedly non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. Such a policy is probably prolonging the conflict and was not authorized by Congress or any international body. This not only prolongs conflict, but opens the floodgates for yet another war of choice by the Obama administration.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.