Syrian Opposition Still Calls For Military Intervention

While Obama aids rebel groups, no group opposing Assad is cohesive enough to attract considerable support from Washington

by John Glaser, June 11, 2012

The Obama administration continues to insist the Syrian rebel fighters are too fractured and disorganized to warrant intervention to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, although advocates of the opposition still argue otherwise.

“Of course you will not get 23 million Syrians in one organization — this is impossible,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council (SNC), a committee of Syrian exiles trying to present themselves as spokesmen for the opposition. “This hasn’t been possible in other cases or countries (either).”

But the opposition is worse than that. The entire insurgency in Syria consists of localized militias with varied interests and often conflicting agendas. They cannot be considered as a whole and many factions have committed serious crimes alongside crimes by the Syrian military.

And the SNC itself, although separated mostly from the violence on the ground, is fractured and constantly in conflict with each other. No group opposing Assad is cohesive enough to attract considerable support from Washington as a true proxy army. The added concern is that elements of al-Qaeda are currently fighting for the opposition.

For now, the White House has officially opposed direct military intervention on the grounds that it would lead to greater chaos and escalate the humanitarian crisis in the country.

“We do not believe that militarization, further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney said. “We believe that it would lead to greater chaos, greater carnage.”

While the Obama administration rightly opposes military intervention, they have unfortunately already begun providing lethal and non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. This, despite the fact that the rebel fighters have committed serious atrocities themselves and that al-Qaeda elements are known to cooperate in the rebel fight against Assad.

That said, the Obama administration is currently providing both lethal and non-lethal aid to these disparate groups of thuggish militias. As Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and an expert on Syria, wrote in Foreign Policy this month, “Let’s be clear: Washington is pursuing regime change by civil war in Syria. The United States, Europe, and the Gulf states want regime change, so they are starving the regime in Damascus and feeding the opposition.”

This is likely to exacerbate the conflict, increasing and prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people.  Support for the Assad regime from Russia and Iran and for the opposition from the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf is emboldening both sides and preventing either from giving up and ceding to a political transition.

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