Dueling Arms Shipments: Is Syria Becoming a Proxy War?

Foreign Arms Undermining UN Ceasefire Efforts

When the UN ceasefire is eventually declared a failure in Syria, there will be two official narratives on why. Western officials will insist, as they were already doing before it began, that the ceasefire was doomed because of the unique evil of Bashar Assad. The supporters of Assad will claim, by contrast, that the terrorist-style tactics of the rebels is to blame.

The reality though, is that the ceasefire had a legitimate shot at working, and in the early stages, violence really had dropped significantly on both sides, and there was at least a grudging willingness to approach negotiations.

No one thinks that anymore, and its not because of anything directly done by either side. Rather, it is the massive influx of weaponry that is convincing both sides that they have a genuine shot at winning the civil war outright and avoiding a negotiated settlement.

The rebels, who at one point were halting attacks simply because they had no ammunition, are now awash in weaponry, provided by GCC member nations (chiefly Saudi Arabia) and smuggled into the country by the US in an extremely loose definition of “non-lethal aid.”

One can virtually pinpoint the moment this aid started arriving, as rebel fighters got a lot more aggressive and rebel officials started openly mocking the negotiations.

At the same time, officials say that Iran has been rushing weapons to the Assad regime, determined to save one of their closest allies from a Western-backed rebel force. This armament, however, is also having a deleterious effect on the peace process, and seems to be convincing the regime that the rebels can be defeated without negotiation if they simply “hold out” long enough.

In the end, Western officials will blame Iran’s weapons for the failure, as an excuse to escalate the war of words with Iran, while Iran and Russia will surely blamed the Western arms. In reality, both sides are undermining the ceasefire and turning Syria’s Civil War into a proxy war between NATO/GCC armed rebels and Russia/Iran backed government forces.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.