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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid