US arms to Syria 'will make bloodbath worse'

By staff writers
June 14, 2013

Far from leading to a swift overthrow of the Assad regime in Syria, US arming of rebel groups will "make the suffering and bloodshed worse".

That is the view of one peace, justice and human rights worker with extensive experience in the region, who spoke to Ekklesia this evening.

Mixed reactions have followed the US announcement this evening that it will give the rebels "direct military aid", claiming that it can ensure that weapons go to "legitimate" opposition fighters and not extreme jihadi groups linked to al Qaeda.

Other analysts are far less sanguine, and say that the US state department is not well enough informed about what is happening on the ground in Syria.

Meanwhile the Syrian regime has dismissed as "a caravan of lies" claims that it has used chemical weapons against its population.

As part of an intensifying propaganda war, it has been broadcasting on state TV an alleged conversation between two rebels saying that they are planning to employ chemical agents themselves.

Scepticism about President Barack Obama's announcement today, premised on the chemical weapons claims, has been further bred by repeat showings of the the Iraq 'weapons of mass destruction' misinformation at the UN, which sparked the second Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq.

Iran and Hesbollah have now said that they will continue and step up support for the Syrian government in its "just war against dangerous elements", fuelling fears of a significant escalation of a conflict which has already produced atrocities on both sides and led to 100,000 deaths.

Evidence of the regime's brutality is clear, say observers and human rights monitors. But thousands of foreign fighters in hundreds of groups are now involved in what looks like a civil war, but without a clear opposition.

Nonviolent activists say that the emphasis of the global community needs to be on getting the major protagonists to a negotiating table, but fear that the military move by the US has now scuppered any chance of that.

They also fear a deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation across the region.

Those advocating arming the rebels believe that there is no realistic prospect of such talks and point to a litany of failure.

Their critics say that there is even less prospect of a clear cut military solution, and say that tens of thousands more will die if outside supporters of the government, the main opposition and the myriad splinter groups, simply pour more and more weapons in.

Others argue that the imposition of a no-fly zone needs to be part of the attempt to break the cycle of violence.

This evening (14 June 2013), Channel 4 News ran a feature on the first British jihadi known to have been killed in Syria, and highlighted both the crimes committed by the government and the lack of respect for life and the Geneva Convention being shown by some opposition groups.

[Ekk/3]

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