Well, as anticipated United States President Obama has acknowledged the use of chemical weapons by the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. Responding to the mounting avalanche of evidence presented by the British, French and Israelis, President Obama has declared there will be additional support provided the rebels in their efforts to dethrone al-Assad. Specifics were obvious in their absence but most believe that at a minimum the Americans will be supplying the rebels with arms including such items as small arms, ammunition, grenade launchers, and possibly also anti-tank rockets and even anti-aircraft missiles likely in the form of MANPADs (Man Portable Air Defense System). It is thus far unclear whether or not the rebels will also receive active allied air-support such as a No Fly Zone which would include destroying al-Assad’s air assets both on the ground and in the air while bombing the airports and runways making them unserviceable. President Obama has made it clear that he does not intend to place American troops on the ground in Syria. So, are we supposed to be all happy and throw down with al-Assad and up with the rebels’ parties? I think not and the reasons why will follow.
Supporting the rebels very early on in the Civil War would have been something which at least would have had a slim glimmer of hope of placing better governance in Syria as at least a sizeable plurality of the rebel forces at that time were supportive of secular rule. As the Civil War has progressed there have been large numbers of casualties on all sides. This meant that the numbers in each faction have taken a severe toll. This has been ameliorated by al-Assad by incorporating both Hezballah irregular forces and IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) troops from Iran. The Islamist rebel forces have been reinforced by a sizeable influx of Sunni Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and additional Mujahedeen from numerous other predominantly Sunni terrorist groups from numerous countries and organizations. The secular rebel forces have not had the luxury of a plentiful supply of new recruits and therefore seen their numbers impacted heavily by the fighting. This has led to the current situation where the two main groups vying for future control of Syria are the Sunni Islamists of Jabhat al Nusra who consist largely of al-Qaeda supporters against the Shiite Islamists who support either Bashir al-Assad and, should he be killed, the Ayatollahs of Iran. Even should the rebel forces prevail and defeat the Iranian Shiite forces, the fighting would not be finished. There would be a secondary struggle for full control between the secular rebel forces and the Sunni Islamist rebel forces. Such a fight promises to be extremely brief as the Islamists have near unlimited reinforcements resupplying their ranks while the secular rebels have no such pool of fighters from which to resupply their units suffering casualties. This has led to a weakened secular force while the Islamist forces remain relatively robust.
Now that President Obama has finally completed his many months of dithering, setting a Red Line and then sliding it one way then the other and is now prepared to aid the rebel forces, there is a serious consequence to his delaying the decision to send aid for over two years. It is a fact that the makeup of the rebel has drastically been shifted away from any possibility for a secular representative governance to result once al-Assad and Iran have been defeated, if that is even possible without placing United States and/or NATO forces on the ground. Judging from the manner that President Obama has committed to removing almost completely from Iraq and Afghanistan without regard for any consequences is a strong indicator, if not proof, that there will be no direct intervention. In the support of being candid and honest, the lack of the possibility for actual United States or NATO troops entering the Civil War in Syria is fortunate as that will prevent the intervention by the Russians who have warned there would be severe ramifications for any intervention by the West. The fact that the United States will be arming the rebels only serves to prolong the conflict as it will serve as a balance for the Russian weapons supplied to al-Assad and by implication to Hezballah and the IRGC. We can expect the Russians to at least consider moving up the delivery dates for the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems which they have claimed would not be delivered until early 2014.
The losers due to this decision by President Obama are the Syrian people. Those who have fled to neighboring countries will be forced to remain for a far more prolonged time in the refugee camps. The neighboring countries can expect even more refugees to be fleeing the Civil War as the battles are likely to increase in intensity making life within Syria even more impossible. As mentioned earlier in the article, the length of the conflict could easily be extended for an indeterminable time as now both sides have outside logistical support from major weapons and other necessities virtually without end. The other losers will be the secular rebel forces as their numbers will continue to decrease which will soon make their influence inconsequential which will leave only the Shiite-Sunni Islamists battling for control of what has become the pivot point in their historical battle for preeminence over Islam. This will be proven by history as one more time where President Obama arrived at a decision just in time for it to be too little too late, mostly too late. It has become evident that President Obama has no taste for foreign policy and that evident revulsion only grows if there is any potential requirement for him to commit to an action and gets even worse if the action is of a military nature. The most glaring and by far most consequential evidence of President Obama’s inability to act definitively in the face of a crisis which potentially requires a military response was the debacle of Benghazi and the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and former navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Beyond the Cusp