By: Sudhanshu Tripathi, Ph.D
Editor’s Note: The following article is a follow-up piece: Has America Betrayed the Syrian Rebels?
Perhaps, beginning as an obvious friend of needy Syrian rebels because being a proclaimed champion of democracy, America is now being suspected and discredited with resentment for not providing required support except hollow verbal encouragement to them fighting for their genuine demand of freedom and democracy against the Assad’s long oppressive rule.
With the ever rising macabre mayhem creating havoc in Syria each day passing, the ongoing nearly one and half-year old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad is now turned into an all-out conflict with no end in sight. As the US support to the sweeping Arab Spring has proved very decisive in the region, particularly in Libya, the Syrian rebels fighting to uproot the Assad regime, initially, were very enthusiastic and hopeful for such help till fulfilling of their goal. But with its expanding battlefield now covering virtually all corners of the country, and the consequent geo-politico-economic constraints being born by the US and that, too, with accusations of throwing the Free Syrian Army and the rebels under a bus; have, altogether, compelled the US not to throw its full weight behind the rebel movement. As a consequence, the anti-American sentiments are consolidating among rebels, in ways that could have grave consequences not only for Syria but also for the entire region as far as peace and security is concerned in a likely scenario of a post-Assad days.
Although the highest ranking defection of the Syrian Prime Minister has boosted their morale, yet the rebels feel betrayed by the US, as for them, the America is not providing the required help to ensure the earliest possible regime change. 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 democratic elections, chosen new leaders and embarked, however messy, on democratic transitions. As against this, Syria is hurtling ever deeper into the worst ever pogrom with each passing day, “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, 30 miles away from 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 tremendous pressure from Russia, China, Iran and also 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 with no hope in future.
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 despite heavy economic compulsions caused by economic recession and Eurozone crisis. 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 long border with Syria, including 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 a fast spreading battlefield that now encircles almost the entire country and has also escalated to include the use of air power by the government. Under this scenario, the declining American help has definitely demoralised the rebels but, in fact, no outside-country can maintain the constant support for long because that do involve heavy economic burden and several hardships besides accusations of being an interventionist or a hegemon.
About the author: Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi is an Associate Professor of Political Science based in India. Click here to mail him.
- Has America Betrayed the Syrian Rebels? (bravenewworld.in)