News Analysis: Providing arms, training to rebels will exacerbate Syria crisis
DAMASCUS — Washington’s recent decision to arm and train the Syrian rebels, who will supposedly fight the Islamic State (IS) terror group, will only exacerbate and prolong the Syrian crisis in what analysts said would be like “casting oil on a smoldering fire.”
Unlike the situation in Iraq, where the administration of President Barack Obama is coordinating and cooperating with the Iraqi forces in their battle against the IS militants, Washington has turned a deaf ear to the calls of the Syrian government for cooperation on battling the IS in Syria, seeking instead to cooperate and deal with the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels by agreeing to arm and coach them to be able to confront the IS in Syria.
Obama, who is leading an international coalition of reportedly 50 countries to fight the IS, said that the Syrian opposition forces were fighting both the brutality of Islamic State terrorists and the “tyranny” of the administration of President Bashar al-Assad.
“We will provide training and equipment to help them (moderate rebels) grow stronger and take on IS terrorists inside Syria,” said Obama, who is a staunch critic of Assad that repeatedly called for his departure and questioned his legitimacy.
The Congress on Thursday backed Obama, authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. The U.S. move, while failing to surprise the Syrian politicians given the fact that the U.S. has always been in favor of the opposition, was seen as a policy toward prolonging the crisis in Syria by attempting to replace the IS fighters with others who will remain loyal to their Western patrons and would keep fighting against the Syrian government.
Maher Murhej, a Syrian politician and head of the Youth Party, told Xinhua he wasn’t surprised by the recent U.S. move, pointing out that the training of the Syrian rebels has already started.
“My information is that the new Congress decision has sanctioned the financing of the rebels, and regarding the training, I have information that training camps have already been opened in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, namely in the city of Ha’il in northwestern Saudi Arabia, to train Syrian rebels of the Islamic Front and Islam Army groups,” Murhej said, noting that there is no such a thing as “moderate” rebels as the vast majority of the armed militant groups are radicalized.
Saudi Arabia overtly agreed last week to host training camps for “moderate” Syrian rebels, agreeing thus on Obama’s broad strategy to combat the IS group, which has captured large chunks of territories in Syria and Iraq over the past few months.
Meanwhile, Murhej pointed out that the American strategy aims at keeping the Syrian government busy with fighting the rebels for years to come as it is seeking to replace the IS fighters with other rebel groups that would continue fighting the Syrian government troops.
Obama has recently sanctioned to strike the IS positions in Syria, akin to what his air force is doing in Iraq. However, the conundrum for Obama was that he didn’t want to make a move against the IS that could play in the hands of the Syrian regime, meaning that he wouldn’t want to weaken the IS so that the Assad troops can fill in the void.
Instead, the U.S. president decided to arm the “moderate” rebels so that they could be able to fill in the void that the IS may leave after the U.S. strikes on their positions in Syria, analysts said.
Still, the new approach may take at least a year to train the rebels and weaken the IS fighters, which means that the Syrian crisis is likely not going to see an exit or an end in the near future.
“After getting done with the IS, the West wants to leave other rebels to keep fighting the Syrian government… they want an armed insurgency that could last for years in Syria,” Murhej said, adding that “the superpowers are not only working on prolonging the crisis in Syria, actually they are drawing a new strategy for the future in the region. They are talking about camps that would be permanent so we are looking at 10 to 15 years of insurgency in Syria.”
Murhej drew a comparison between the current hosting of the armed rebels by Saudi Arabia and what happened at the times of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussain, who had hosted on Iraq soil the Mojahedin-e-Khalq movement (MEK), an Iranian opposition movement in exile that advocated the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran. During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the group was given refuge by Saddam Hussein and mounted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory.
“They (superpowers) are attempting to create a similar group to the Islamic State but this time under the commandership of the West,” Murhej said.