News

    US Unconvinced That Arming Syrian Uprising Would Topple Assad

    Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers, with banners that read, 'Yes to support the Free Army,' in Al Qusour, Homs, Syria, March 2, 2012.
    Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers, with banners that read, 'Yes to support the Free Army,' in Al Qusour, Homs, Syria, March 2, 2012.

    Opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are asking international supporters to arm their uprising against Damascus. The Obama administration says that may not bring down the government in Damascus.

    With Saudi Arabia and Qatar considering arming the uprising against Assad, Washington says it is not convinced that will end the conflict.

    “It is not clear to us that arming people right now will either save lives or lead to the demise of the Assad regime," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeff Feltman. "There are a lot of very complicated questions.”

    Feltman told the Senate Foreign Relations committee this week that there is a robust conversation among international opponents of Assad about arming the uprising. At that hearing, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said it is critical that Washington “proceed with extreme caution and with our eyes wide open” about supporting the rebel Free Syrian Army.

    Feltman said a political solution remains a better, faster way to end the conflict.

    “We have been very hesitant about pouring fuel onto a conflagration that Assad himself has set. So we are very cautious about this whole area of questioning. And that is why we have worked with this international consensus on political tracks, on economic tracks, on diplomatic tracks in order to get to the tipping point we are talking about,” said Feltman.

    With Syrian forces using tanks and heavy artillery against government opponents, Feltman said it is not clear how more guns would help the uprising.

    “I don't think when you hear the Saudis and Qataris talking about arming the opposition they are talking about somehow getting tanks into the opposition," said Feltman. "And how would the opposition know how to use them anyway?”

    South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham likened the Syrian conflict to NATO action in Libya, and asked the Obama administration to encourage Saudi Arabian efforts to supply and train Assad opponents.

    With Iran defending Syria against what Tehran sees as a Sunni power grab, Middle East analyst Steve Heydemann said any overt Saudi military involvement would be just the sort of regional unraveling that the Obama administration is hoping to avoid.

    “It is a risk that militarization of the Syrian uprising will also increase the sense of regional rivalry being played out on Syrian territory,” said Heydemann.

    But Heydemann, who is a senior advisor for Middle East Initiatives at the United States Institute of Peace, said the militarization of the Syrian uprising is already underway.

    “Weapons are flowing into Syria from a variety of different directions. They are moving to actors we know nothing about. Those flows are completely unregulated and uncontrolled, and the Free Syrian Army itself is a very loose coalition of militant groups who operate with very little, that has very little command and control,” said Heydemann.

    Heydemann said more weapons could further fragment the Syrian opposition into independent militias that could threaten the establishment of a unified, stable, democratic, post-Assad Syria.

    “We have some kind of an obligation to begin thinking about how to manage militarization so that as the armed resistance grows and develops, it does so in a coordinated fashion. It does so under the authority of the civilian opposition leadership. And it does so in a way that ensures that the governments which are supplying the equipment to the armed elements of the uprising are not doing it under the table,” said he said.

    Heydemann said that would increase the legitimacy of Syrian civilian opponents and could, in doing so, contribute to a negotiated settlement.

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
    Middle East Voices
    . Follow our Middle East reports on
    Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin
    March 03, 2012 8:17 AM
    Arming the opposition will not topple Assad but will rather empower them to move on with their dastardly barbarism to return the Middle East to the Dark and Stone Ages. Assad is not a saint, but somehow he has managed to keep the peace out there without expressing the extreme sentiments all muslims harbor against Israel in the way Ahmadinejad touts it. And this is what the opposition wants to remove, which God has used even the hand of the enemy to hold back, FOR THE LOVE OF HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE.

    by: Hamidullah
    March 03, 2012 5:07 AM
    I don't want to support dictatorship regime but to find away with out valiance is better than seeking our target with fighting, I think to answer a blood is very difficult for a Muslim whatever to kill thousand of innocent people and Allah will ask all these from killers. but before to do something thinking about that is better and I hope Allah may save all Syrians from dead.

    by: michael
    March 03, 2012 3:42 AM
    A political solution must unravel a confirmed Shii leadership using "momente" (see the German philos Hegel 1770-1831). This is a bad recipe

    by: Redbull
    March 03, 2012 3:29 AM
    You should pour more money and arms to help the opposition because you implicated the opposition in this predicament . Now they are disowned them and leave them alone to face Bashar and his supporters while Libyans have been torturing Africans and dealing with them as monkeys and apes . Qatar and Turkey should end their troops to create more peace and gain some reputation .What a life! They have heavy fatigue of Israel violation , so you should arm them urgently .

    by: m.mahmood1945@yahoo.com
    March 03, 2012 3:09 AM
    I fail to understand the logic of Obama Administration. When the patient is in a critical condition instant remedy is needed. What blueprint does the Administration have to bring about a "negotiated settlement" in Syria and in what time-frame? The American approach is horribly disappointing.

    by: Hassan
    March 02, 2012 3:11 PM
    This year will be a difficult year for most Syrians. God willing, 2013 will be better for Syria once Assad, the Ba’ath Party and the Shabiha are run out of the country. Money and supplies are running out for the regime. No matter how many Syrians the murder, time is against Assad. When his time runs out, Assad will find out that a hungry animal will turn on its’ own master when the food is gone.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.