Sunday, June 29, 2014

Syria's Uprising is Creating Strange Bedfellows

6/28/14 (S2N Media). President Barack Obama requested $500 million from Congress to train, equip, and moderate, appropriately vetted members of the Syrian opposition as concerns grow over the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq. According to Obama's rationale, arming the opposition would help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and improve conditions for a negotiated settlement.

The training program would be a significant step for the Obama administration that has consistently steered clear of providing military aid to the rebels in the conflict in Syria, and has warned of the dangers of American intervention. However, military and State Department officials indicated that there were not yet any specific programs to arm and train the rebels that the money would fund, nor could administration officials specify which moderate Syrian opposition members they intended to train and support, or where they would be trained.

The aggressive sweep made by the Isis insurgents through eastern Syria and northern Iraq has rattled the region over the past three weeks. In its wake, the battle lines for the inevitable showdown with Isis are becoming ever clearer, rewriting the distinction between friend and foe, paving the way for some strange untrusting bedfellows.

The Friends of Syria group, the UAE, Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar,Turkey, and the United States has grown exponentially during the turmoil in Syria and picked up some additional players.

Consider the Iranian-backed Asa'ib ahl al-Haq, whose members who recently monitored flight paths of US military cargo planes descending over Abu Ghraib and landing at Baghdad airport. The group's leader, Major General Qassem Suleimani is well known to US officials. For more than five years, between 2005 and 2011, he prevailed as their chief antagonist in Iraq, with militias he directed responsible, according to Washington, for more than a quarter of all US battle casualties. This time though, the foes were working toward the same accord.

Then there is Russia. Why do they want to assist Syria? Russia does not trust U.S. intentions in the region. Russia believes humanitarian concerns are often used an excuse for America pursuing its own political and economic agendas.
Russia's backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is also driven by the need to preserve its naval presence in the Mediterranean, secure its energy contracts, and counter the West on 'regime change.

China is in this eclectic mix of foes come allies. China believes foreign countries should not meddle in Syria's internal affairs.  China has had its own share of international controversies over its policies with Tibet as well as allegations of human rights violations.
China also does not want another Libyan outcome repeated in Syria.
It restrained from a U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya that paved the way for a NATO military intervention.

Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia has been among the most active governments arming Syria's rebels.

The Saudi motivation for intervening in Syria is three-fold. The Saudis want to be viewed as the protectors of Arab Sunnis region-wide.  After all, they view themselves as a regional Islamic power. Nevertheless, they are also working to weaken Iran and keep the Muslim Brotherhood in check.

The Saudis supported efforts to ouster of Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, and they definitely "say no to the Brotherhood" in Syria. They strive to dilute the power of the Brotherhood among the opposition, which explains their effort to expand the opposition coalition in May. Additionally, Saudi Arabia helped its protégé Ahmed Jarba beat out a pro-Brotherhood candidate for coalition president.

As one would expect, all of these players working to assist Syria raises concerns around the possibility of disorganization and possible intermittent chaos. At some point one or two of the countries involved are going to have to take the point position possibly creating some dissention among the group.

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