News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition Frustrated with Level of Outside Support

Despite allegations of Syria regime use of chemical weapons, Syrian opposition unable to get weapons to break stalemated two-year civil war.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on April 25 that allegations of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime must be investigated before increased military aid to rebels can be determined.U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on April 25 that allegations of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime must be investigated before increased military aid to rebels can be determined.
x
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on April 25 that allegations of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime must be investigated before increased military aid to rebels can be determined.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on April 25 that allegations of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime must be investigated before increased military aid to rebels can be determined.
David Arnold
The United States is reconsidering the level of support it provides the Syrian opposition trying to overthrow the Damascus government following increasing evidence that President Bashar al-Assad's forces have used chemical weapons.
 
But even before President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials acknowledged last week that some chemical weapons had been used in Syria, tensions had already been rising between Washington and the Syrian opposition groups.
 
Those tensions come more than two years into a bloody conflict that the U.S. and the United Nations say has killed more than 80,000 people.
 
Secretary of State John Kerry announced recently that the United States will double its non-lethal military aid to Syrian rebel forces to a total of $123 million. The aid consists mainly of food, medical supplies, night-vision goggles and protective gear, but not weapons.
 
Prominent activist Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib, who served for more than five months as president of the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, reaffirmed his intent to resign as Coalition president.
 
... Syrians have always held the United States on a pedestal ... But they are seeing their families getting slaughtered without any help from the leader of the world.
Khatib first announced his resignation more than three weeks ago, claiming bitter disappointment over his repeated failure to persuade Western governments to send much-needed weapons for insurgent forces in Syria.
 
The Coalition’s media director, Khalid Saleh, told VOA many Syrians echo Khatib’s frustrations and focus their anger on the United States.
 
“When the revolution first started and Ambassador (Robert) Ford was still in Syria and he traveled to the city of Hama (for memorial services for activists), I think the people in Syria held the United States in a very high place,” Saleh said.
 
“But as time passed on and no weapons were provided and more and more deaths were happening - every day now we average 150 to 200 deaths - … the frustration, the anger, if I might say, is directed toward the United States because Syrians have always held the United States on a pedestal ... But they are seeing their families getting slaughtered without any help from the leader of the world,” Saleh added.
 
Opposition asks for surgical strikes
 
A Coalition statement issued after a meeting with Kerry demanded “specific and immediate” measures to prevent the Assad regime from using chemical weapons or ballistic missiles through surgical strikes against launch locations using unmanned aerial vehicles -- drones.
 
The statement continues, “The technical ability to take specific action to prevent the human tragedy and suffering of innocent civilians, mostly women and children, is available … yet nothing serious has been done to put an end to such terror and criminality.”
 
Saleh also said that members of the Coalition who met with Kerry in Istanbul recently made informal requests for a “coalition of the willing” to execute surgical air strikes against the Syrian regime’s Scud missile bases and the presidential palace.
 
“We believe surgical strikes against certain military installations would inspire massive desertions,” Saleh added.
 
Enter the extremist element
 
The United States has been reluctant to send weapons to rebels in Syria, according to some U.S. officials, because of fears the weapons would wind up in the hands of extremist forces such as Jabhat al-Nusra and others jihadists linked to al-Qaida in Iraq. 
 
I think that al-Qaida, in this case, is part of the problem, but it is not the fundamental problem.
Yet despite the increased presence of al-Qaida operatives in Syria, the United States is not likely to target Nusra fighters with drones as they have al-Qaida fighters in Yemen and Pakistan, says Michael O’Hanlon, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
 
“I think that al-Qaida, in this case, is part of the problem, but it is not the fundamental problem,” O'Hanlon said. 
 
In the coming months, he added, Washington will “see more of a need to make sure that the war tilts toward the opposition, and if it doesn’t, we’ll consider … a range of things that we can do.”
 
“And I think arms shipments become a more plausible first step than drones,” O'Hanlon said.
 
No unanimity in Washington
 
In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of State Kerry spoke in favor of cooperating with Syrian rebels. He said the U.S. works “very very closely” with the opposition coalition and other partners who are providing rebel units with lethal aid.
 
Committee chairman Carl Levin expressed concern that the United States is not sending a strong enough message to the Syrian president. “I believe that the time has come for the United States to intensify the military pressure on Assad.”
 
Yet during the same committee hearing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed caution about greater military support for rebels in Syria.
 
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, echoed Hagel’s concern. Dempsey, who had previously supported weapons for approved rebel forces, told the committee that the current state of the armed opposition is “actually more confusing… than it was six months ago.” Dempsey said he was no longer confident that the United States could guarantee that lethal aid would get “to the right people.”

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More