Syrian rebel leader unlikely to get weapons wish list from US

The leader of the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, is in Washington seeking more advanced weapons.

May 9, 2014 03:53
2 minute read.
Head of Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Jarba.

Head of Syrian National Coalition Ahmed Jarba 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer )


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The leader of the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, is in Washington seeking more advanced weapons, but US President Barack Obama is unlikely to fully comply with the wish list.

Israel, Jordan, and Iraq have probably let the US administration know they are opposed to a significant upgrading of opposition arms, worried they could fall into the hands of Islamist groups.

Obama is about as likely to arm the Syrian opposition as he is to embrace supply-side economics,” Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told The Jerusalem Post.

“Obama might pose with Syrian oppositionists, but at this point, a photo-op is pretty much all the opposition will get. He may promise, but he won’t deliver,” he said.

“Obama is a vain man, and to do more now would be to admit he was wrong before, when the opposition wasn’t so radical as it is now.”

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the Arab website Rai al-Youm, wrote this week that the US does not plan to reverse its decision not to deliver anti-aircraft weapons to the Western-backed opposition, but instead made the less meaningful decision to “reward” the group with the status of a diplomatic foreign mission in the US.

The United States also plans a $27 million increase in non-lethal assistance to rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad.

During his Washington visit, Jarba will see US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday and is expected to meet Obama.

Maher Abu Tayr, writing on Wednesday in the Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour, says Jordan does not want anti-aircraft weapons to be delivered through its territory, putting the national security of Jordan at risk as they could end up coming back to its cities.

Tayr also stated the common Arab opinion that “Washington will not get involved in the Syrian file as long as the fire burns Syria alone and does not reach Israel.”

Shi'ite ruled Iraq is fighting against Sunni Islamist groups at home and which are active in Syria. Likewise, the country would be concerned if these groups were able to acquire more advanced weapons.

For Israel’s part, it has done its best to intervene minimally in the conflict, seeing a negative outcome if either Assad or the opposition end up winning, though it has enforced its red lines to keep advanced weapons from being delivered to Hezbollah.

Furthermore, the Islamist dominated opposition could become a future adversary if Assad is toppled or if chaos reigns in the country.

Hence, not only is it unlikely that Obama will supply weapons that will fundamentally alter the balance of power on the ground, bordering countries are worried about them later being used against them.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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