By: Sudhanshu Tripathi, Ph.D
The US, once considered by the Syrian opposition as a natural friend in its fight for genuine demand of freedom and democracy against a repressive regime having deep acrimony with the West, is now being suspected with resentment for not providing sufficient assistance except empty verbal encouragement to the rebels.
With the onset of Arab Spring in Syria clamouring for democracy and democratic institutions in the region, the nearly 17 month old uprising against President Assad is now turned into an all-out conflict with no end in sight. Unfortunately, as the Arab world’s macabre mayhem continues to maim and kill innocent lives on an ever-escalating scale, anti-American sentiments are hardening among those struggling to over throw President Bashar al- Assad, in ways that could have serious consequences for Syria as well as the region as regards peace and security in a likely scenario of a post-Assad era.
Although the highest ranking defection of the Syrian Prime Minister has boosted their morale, yet the rebels so fighting against the Assad regime feel betrayed by the US, as for them, the America is not providing the required help to ensure the earliest change of this regime. The Syrians joined the sweeping wave for change in the Middle East last year after Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans in a row and have already voted in elections, chosen new leaders and embarked, however messily, on democratic transitions. As against this, Syria is hurtling ever deeper into the mayhem with no end in sight, “and all we get is words,” said Yasser Abu Ali, a spokesman for one of the Free Syrian Army battalions in the town of al-Bab, which lies 30 miles northeast of Aleppo.
Though the rebels don’t want any kind of military intervention in their favour but their urgent need is for imposition of the no-fly zone similar to the effort that helped Libyan rebels topple Muammar Gaddafi last year and for supplies of heavy weapons to counter the regime’s vastly superior firepower. When the regime falls, as the rebel battalion spokesman assumes it eventually will, Syrians will not forget that their pleas for help went unanswered which the US ought not to have done if it is sincere towards its commitment for restoration of democracy and freedom for all, he said. “America will pay a price for this,” he said. “America is going to lose the friendship of Syrians, and no one will trust them anymore. Already we don’t trust them at all.”
Further, there may be few shortcomings as regards the American aid to the Syrian rebels is concerned but the US is also under enough pressure from Russia, China, Iran and few friends of President Assad in the region, not to intervene militarily as it will be not only counter- productive but also disastrous to the peace and security of the entire region. It is, therefore, perhaps, a debate is raging within the Obama administration over whether it is prudent to step up support for the rebels now because the effort to explore a peaceful and diplomatic solution through the United Nations has failed.
President Obama has recently sanctioned secret help besides already having authorized the provision of non-lethal aid to the opposition, including communications and satellite equipment. For some time, the State Department has been reaching out to Assad opponents inside Syria with a view to identifying potential allies and recipients of assistance. The American allies in the region including Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also extended some financial help to the rebels for purchasing arms and ammunition. A NATO member, Turkey is also facilitating rebel movements across its 550-mile border with Syria, including, some Syrians say, transfer of arms.
Whatever be the extent of the US assistance, it will be deemed small-scale, intermittent, and in sufficient to the requirements of an expanding battlefield that now covers all corners of the country and has now escalated to include the use of air power by the government. In fact, the declining American help, if it really be so as the Syrians rebels allege, may be a cause of concern for them but not for the US because it is to preserve and protect its own national interests- energy requirements- against all odds.
About the author: Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi is an Associate Professor of Political Science based in India. Click here to mail him.
- Looming War Clouds in Syria – Regime Change Likely (bravenewworld.in)