Update: U.S. to Arm Syrian Rebels

The U.S. has reluctantly agreed to send arms to Syrian rebels after confirming that the Assad regime used chemical weapons. What’s next in this volatile crisis?

As a follow up to our post “Update: Escalating Crisis in Syria,” here are some more recent news reports about the continuing crisis in Syria.

“Red line” crossed

The Guardian reported June 13:

“The US has said it will provide military support to the Syrian rebels after confirming it believes there is concrete evidence of nerve gas attacks by government forces against rebel groups. …

“The White House believes its assessment means Syria has crossed the so-called ‘red line’ that President Barack Obama established early in the conflict as a test for further western intervention to support the rebels.

“Late on Thursday details began to emerge of the shape military aid might take. Senator John McCain, one of the strongest proponents of US military action in Syria, said he was told on Thursday that Obama had decided to ‘provide arms to the rebels,’ a decision confirmed by three US officials, according to the Associated Press. The officials cautioned that decisions on the specific type of weaponry were still being finalised, AP said, but they might include small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired remote-propelled grenades and other missiles.

“The CIA was expected to be tasked with teaching the rebels how to use the arms the White House had agreed to supply, AP said. The New York Times gave a similar outline of the arms involved, while adding that the anti-aircraft munitions hotly sought by the rebels were not under consideration. …

“[Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said:] ‘The influx of foreign fighters to the conflict has added an element of urgency to the situation.’

“Asked why this decision had been taken now, the White House said it needed to be sure that military assistance would end up in the right hands.

“‘It takes time to establish a pipeline for direct military assistance but we are now comfortable working with the SMC and General Idriss,’ said Rhodes. ‘The type of assistance we are going to provide is going to be substantively different to what we have provided since April.’

“His comments strongly point toward arming the rebels with significant new weapons.

“Rhodes said the new US strategy was ‘aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC on the ground and their ability to defend themselves.’

“Washington said it would be consulting with the United Nations and had provided its alleged evidence of chemical weapons use to the Russians. Obama is due to have bilateral talks with President Putin at next week’s G8 summit in Northern Ireland.”

The Guardian reported June 14:

“Russia has dismissed US assertions that Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, and said any US move to arm Syrian rebels would jeopardise efforts to convene a peace conference.”

Will arming the rebels work?

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus wrote June 14:

“The pattern of the fighting remains mixed on the ground, but it is clear that the opposition suffered a serious reverse at Qusair and government forces and their allies are advancing on Aleppo.

“But are these set-backs due to lack of weaponry or poor training and coordination?

“The opposition forces have been getting significant quantities of weaponry already, brokered by their backers in the Gulf and elsewhere. What difference will US arms supplies make?

“What if it does not?

“If US arms supplies do not alter the balance—it may be that the intervention of well-trained and motivated Hezbollah troops on the government side has been the real deciding factor in recent combat—what then?

“Will more sophisticated arms be supplied?

“Will this require active US training?

“And is this the start of a slippery slope towards more direct intervention?

“Can ‘blow-back’ be avoided?

“Western spokesmen have spoken confidently about ensuring that any supplied weapons go to moderates and do not end up in the hands of Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda. But what is the value of such assurances? …

“The stakes are huge. Syria is at the epicentre of so many of the region’s problems.

“A spill-over of the crisis could prompt a regional war drawing in Lebanon and maybe Israel.

“Fracturing boundaries could extend the crisis to Iraq and maybe overwhelm Jordan.

“By acting to arm the Syrian rebels Mr. Obama may be assuming a moral responsibility for their fate that he is unable to discharge.

“More weaponry, some critics say, will simply prolong the fighting and the bloodshed.

“No wonder then that some have likened the Syria crisis to ‘a problem from hell.’”

Additional background and prophetic implications

For background information about today’s Middle East conflicts and how they fit into Bible prophecy, see the article “Middle East Conflict.”

For previous blog posts and commentaries about Syria, see:

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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