Jun 21, 2013

U.S. arms for Syrian rebels: inflaming Sunni-Shia sectarianism

U.S. to supply arms to Syrian opposition

The Obama administration's decision to authorize the arming of the Syrian opposition is opposed by a large majority of Americans. A recent Pew poll indicates that 74 percent of independents, 71 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of Democrats are opposed to the U.S. and its allies sending arms to Syria.

The Obama announcement aside... truth is the CIA has been helping to arm the Syrian rebels since early 2012. A New York Times article - Arms Airlift to Syrian Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A. - is an eye opener with respect to the amount of arms that have been trafficked into Syria with American assistance.


With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

Talk of restricting arms to the "moderates" is unrealistic - in large part spin for public consumption. Once American arms get into opposition hands it will be next to impossible to monitor how they are used and by whom... whether they are being traded or used to commit war crimes or other atrocities.

The Syrian rebels who oppose the regime of Bashar al-Assad include only a minority who are fighting for democracy and a Syrian mosaic. Portraying the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as the "good guys" fighting for freedom and democracy as opposed to the al-Nusra Front that wants an Islamic state - creates a false dichotomy. Channel 4 News interviewed a journalist who spent six months with the Free Syrian Army. He estimates that 60% of the FSA also want an Islamic state.

Muslim resistance against imperialism is an honorable fight, but when the resisters help out the empire you have to question the motivation. The Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict that has been flaring up throughout the region is a central driving force in the Syrian civil war.

Obama is engaging in brinkmanship in hopes of ratcheting up the pressure on the diplomatic front. Given Assad's surprising staying power and recent military successes, American small arms shipments may turn out to be a step closer to more extensive U.S. involvement. It's a gamble that could escalate into an extended war, heaping more punishment on the Syrian people and leading to untold numbers of dead. Moreover in a fractured Middle East the dangers of a broader regional war will be more rather than less likely.

An article on World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) this week - Syrian war threatens regional sectarian bloodbath - contains a number of key points worth considering.

In the past weeks, Washington’s strategy in the Middle East has emerged very clearly: it aims to exploit sectarian divisions, particularly between Sunni and Shia Muslims, to restructure the Middle East in its interests.

The US has mobilized a collection of Sunni Islamist guerrilla forces, in which Al Qaeda-linked forces play a major role, to fight the Shia Alawite-led regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It now sees stoking up religious tensions in the region as the best way to build a broader base for a policy of isolating and targeting Iran—a Shia-dominated state allied to Shia-led Arab regimes in Syria, Iraq, and to the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah.

The past month has witnessed:

* Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Mursi cut off diplomatic relations with Syria this week, after Egypt hosted a meeting of 70 Sunni religious organizations in Cairo that issued a statement calling for “jihad with mind, money, weapons—all forms of jihad.”

* Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, who attended the Cairo meeting, had already issued a global appeal for Sunnis to wage holy war in Syria. “Every Muslim trained to fight and capable of doing that must make himself available … How could 100 million Shia defeat 1.7 billion Sunnis? Only because [Sunni] Muslims are weak,” he stated.

* In Turkey, Washington is backing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he moves to brutally crush protests against his Islamist government, including its support for the Syrian war.

*In Saudi Arabia, where tens of thousands of Lebanese Shia live, the monarchy plans to expel Hezbollah supporters in retaliation for Hezbollah’s support for Assad.

The horrific implications of Washington’s policy were recognized even by former US Ambassador to Yugoslavia Peter Galbraith, who commented: “The next genocide in the world will likely be against the Alawites in Syria.”

Link to the full WSWS article - here.