Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's Probably Just My Natural Skepticism that I Wonder About Arming Syrian Rebels

It wasn't all that long ago that I was throwing a bit of shade at Sen. McCain for his assertion that we would easily be able to tell who to support among the various Syrian rebel groups. I remain skeptical about this and still wonder how this kind of thing effects any potential agreement the US has with Russia with respects to what's going on there. But you know what isn't reassuring to me? This Mother Jones story:

(Let's just start with the title, hmm?)

Who's a "Moderate" Rebel in Syria? Check the Handwritten Receipts


This title might make one curious. How does that work, pray tell? And so one reads on--

Khalid Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, the chief political body representing the US-backed rebel forces, says countries supporting the rebels are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies, but he adds that he "cannot comment on which countries are performing the audits." The State Department did not respond to questions from Mother Jones. 
In 2012, Brian Sayers, then the Washington lobbyist for the Syrian Support Group, told McClatchy that "obviously, it's always going to be difficult to say who's the end user for every cent, every dollar, but we don't see that the military councils will provide funds to the fringe groups." Relying on local commanders to guarantee US assistance is managed effectively could lead to "massive corruption," warns Aki Peritz, a senior policy adviser for Third Way and a former CIA counterterrorism analyst. Peritz notes that the supplies being handed out by the Syrian Support Group can be sold for cash or traded for weapons and ammunition.
Huh. I'd be lying if I said I did not see the problem there. Let's just square away what we can ascertain about the rebel groups themselves:

Opposition forces battling Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, but after more than two years of fighting they are fragmented into as many as 1,000 bands. 
The new study by IHS Jane's, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda.. 
Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle. 
There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups.
(Although degraded, the Assad Regime's forces can be expected to be in greater force that the rebels combined, except that I don't know that the rebels' forces could be said to be combined, you know? It's a push. I don't think Assad could rout them with conventional weapons, but I don't think they have the overwhelming wherewithal they need to topple his ass. )

I'm not sure what's the game, here. I don't know if it's just to give the rebels a chance at survival. I don't think we have any interest (short-term) in regime change there. And not striking, whether we have a little something for them or not, has some rebel groups a bit demoralized.  With their chances at getting more from us, which is just as well, I guess. Are we helping stir shit while the various factions develop something like a coherent plot, to just keep it simmering until something good happens? That sounds plausible, but that sounds more like an an "if", not a "when".

Still and all, I'm not sure I like it. I'm basically superstitious about blowback. I'm no isolationist, and no pacifist either. But something right here makes me pull up a bit. This has enough uncertainty to make me pause, "Suzy Silverlinings, the Optimistic Obot" pose I try to put on aside.

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