Arm the Syrian rebels? Think twice.

Marc Lynch writing at Foriegn Policy is asking some good questions about arming the Free Syrian Army and why it would be a bad idea at this point:

But people need to think far more carefully about the implications of funneling weapons to the Free Syrian Army before leaping into such a policy. Here are some of the questions that need to be asked.

First, who exactly would be armed? The perennial, deep problem of the Syrian opposition is that it remains fragmented, disorganized, and highly localized. This has not changed. The "Free Syrian Army" remains something of a fiction, a convenient mailbox for a diverse, unorganized collection of local fighting groups. Those groups have been trying to coordinate more effectively, no doubt, but they remain deeply divided. For all their protestations of solidarity, the Syrian National Council and the FSA show few signs of working well together, while repeated splits and conflicts have emerged in the media within the FSA. So to whom would these weapons be provided, exactly? I expect that what will happen is that foreign powers will rush to arm their own allies and proxies (or are already doing so); which ones are the United States meant to choose? While claims about the role of Salafi jihadists in the armed opposition are likely exaggerated, the reality is that we know very little about the identities, aspirations, or networks of the people who would be armed.

Sound familiar? It's the Libyan intervention on steroids. Who the hell are these people? Deserters from Assad's army? Most are, but then there are the "freedom fighters" associated with the usual suspects; al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Would anyone be able to tell the difference?

Lynch has 5 more thoughtful questions to ask before the west sends sophisticated weapons to the FSA. Among them:

[W]hat will the weapons be intended to achieve? I can see at least three answers. Perhaps they'll be meant to be purely defensive, to stop the regime's onslaught and protect civilians. But this relatively passive goal does not seem a likely stable endpoint once the weapons start flooding in. A second possibility is that they'll be meant to give the rebels the power to defeat the regime on the battlefield and overthrow it. But that does not seem realistic, since it would require far more fire power than would likely be on offer to reverse the immense imbalance in favor of regime forces. A third possibility is that they'll be meant to even the balance of power sufficiently to force Assad to the bargaining table once he realizes that he can't win. But the violence of the escalating civil war will make such talks very difficult politically. The provision of arms probably won't be intended to create a protracted, militarized stalemate -- but that does seem the most likely outcome. Is that the goal we hope to achieve?

How will Assad respond to arming his enemies? What happens if it doesn't work? And if Assad falls, what then? Read Lynch's entire piece to get an idea of how what sounds like a possible solution, would just end up making things worse.

Marc Lynch writing at Foriegn Policy is asking some good questions about arming the Free Syrian Army and why it would be a bad idea at this point:

But people need to think far more carefully about the implications of funneling weapons to the Free Syrian Army before leaping into such a policy. Here are some of the questions that need to be asked.

First, who exactly would be armed? The perennial, deep problem of the Syrian opposition is that it remains fragmented, disorganized, and highly localized. This has not changed. The "Free Syrian Army" remains something of a fiction, a convenient mailbox for a diverse, unorganized collection of local fighting groups. Those groups have been trying to coordinate more effectively, no doubt, but they remain deeply divided. For all their protestations of solidarity, the Syrian National Council and the FSA show few signs of working well together, while repeated splits and conflicts have emerged in the media within the FSA. So to whom would these weapons be provided, exactly? I expect that what will happen is that foreign powers will rush to arm their own allies and proxies (or are already doing so); which ones are the United States meant to choose? While claims about the role of Salafi jihadists in the armed opposition are likely exaggerated, the reality is that we know very little about the identities, aspirations, or networks of the people who would be armed.

Sound familiar? It's the Libyan intervention on steroids. Who the hell are these people? Deserters from Assad's army? Most are, but then there are the "freedom fighters" associated with the usual suspects; al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Would anyone be able to tell the difference?

Lynch has 5 more thoughtful questions to ask before the west sends sophisticated weapons to the FSA. Among them:

[W]hat will the weapons be intended to achieve? I can see at least three answers. Perhaps they'll be meant to be purely defensive, to stop the regime's onslaught and protect civilians. But this relatively passive goal does not seem a likely stable endpoint once the weapons start flooding in. A second possibility is that they'll be meant to give the rebels the power to defeat the regime on the battlefield and overthrow it. But that does not seem realistic, since it would require far more fire power than would likely be on offer to reverse the immense imbalance in favor of regime forces. A third possibility is that they'll be meant to even the balance of power sufficiently to force Assad to the bargaining table once he realizes that he can't win. But the violence of the escalating civil war will make such talks very difficult politically. The provision of arms probably won't be intended to create a protracted, militarized stalemate -- but that does seem the most likely outcome. Is that the goal we hope to achieve?

How will Assad respond to arming his enemies? What happens if it doesn't work? And if Assad falls, what then? Read Lynch's entire piece to get an idea of how what sounds like a possible solution, would just end up making things worse.

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