As the 11-month struggle in Syria between the government and protesters approaches a death toll of over 6,000, the United States weighs whether or not they will send military aid. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has already received weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their effort against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.
The United Stats and military officials did confirm that they were examining this course of action, though at the moment it is purely “academic.” Part of the reasoning pushing the United States towards this decision is that Saudi Arabi has supplied the FSA with satellite phones and Qatar has provided anti-tank guns.
While the FSA requests American help, they are not asking for troops.
As reported by Fox News, FSA leader Sheikh Zuheir Abassi stated that they need no fly zones, and a location from which to safely operate from. Abassi said “If we were given these two, most of the army would desert and join us,”
Some 40,000 Syrian troops have already deserted the army at this point. According to the FSA, weapons and logistical support from the United States would help them win this conflict. Abassi also asked the Untied States to harden it policies and sanctions on the government while providing a way to shuttle guns and supplies into the country.
“We want military support. We want supplies,” he said. “We have the numbers on our side, we just don’t have the weapons.”
“We are facing a death machine that is one of the worst in the world,” the FSA said adding that the poorly-armed rebels were using “light weapons to battle tanks.”
However, this is dangerous territory for the United States to walk in. Both Russia and China have already thrown their support behind the Syrian government, making this a volatile situation.
Last week the Obama administration came out and said it was not thinking of arming the rebels, but rather providing humanitarian aid to them. Many experts in Middle East believe if handled wrongly this may turn into a proxy conflict.
Involving the country in another conflict of this sort is something Obama is going to have to be careful about. The United States is all too familiar with arming rebel groups against dictators and having it backfire on them. In addition in most of these cases we had our main competitors on the other side of the conflict, as it is now with Russia and China.
Involving the United States in weapons running to Syria could easily turn this situation into what Afghanistan was in the 1980s between Russia and the United States – a catastrophic proxy or puppet war that ultimately led to radical regime change and caused us to fight another war 20 years down the road.