The Folly of Supporting the Syrian Rebels

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Who makes up the opposition? The SNC is headed by Burhan Ghalioun, a Professor of Political Sociology at the Sorbonne, and the NCC is led by Haitham Mana’, who went into exile in France in 1978. There are also several internal opposition groups (the Local Coordinating Committees are one prominent and effective organization), including an Islamist group, the Higher Council for the Syrian Revolution.

But it is in the SNC that some observers are beginning to see a growing influence of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salifists. Reuters reports that one secular member of the SNC says that Islamists make up half that body’s membership. The Muslim Brotherhood says it is “only 30%.” We have seen this before in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia. A facade of human rights activists, liberal politicians, leftist intellectuals, and secularists start out trying to control the revolution only to see the Islamists move in when the dust settles and take power.

Until the US can be sure that won’t happen in Syria, aid should be withheld.

Who Is Included in the Free Syrian Army?

No one can say for sure how many rebels have joined the Free Syrian Army (FSA), how effective it is, the chain of command, or even who is leading it. Two former Syrian officers claim to command the FSA. One of them is Riad Al-Asaad, a former Syrian Air Force colonel. He is based in Turkey along the Syria border and appears to have some operational control over rebel forces. The other is General Mustafa Sheikh, who defected recently and heads a new military council to organize defector officers. Asaad is the officer issuing the most press releases, but his control over the FSA is less a matter of planning operations that are carried out by the small units that make up the bulk of FSA forces, and more a matter of straining to maintain even rudimentary communications with his fighters.

It is thought that there are about 7,000 rebel members of the FSA scattered in small groups throughout Syria. They use hit and run tactics against targets of opportunity and then melt back into the civilian population. Their effectiveness is growing, but they have a long way to go before they can be called an “army.”

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has been advocating the arming of the FSA by the US and other Western countries. Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy gives several reasons why this is a bad idea, including the fact that we have no information on who most of the local commanders are, much less the make up of the forces (as mentioned above, Al-Qaeda has infiltrated some of these groups). Lynch points out that the FSA “remains something of a fiction, a convenient mailbox for a diverse, unorganized collection of local fighting groups.”

The Rubio resolution would supply the FSA with communications only. But Lynch points out that this kind of aid is folly and could be “a valuable resource that will strengthen the political position of those who gain control of the distribution networks.” This would hardly facilitate unity among the opposition and might even have the opposite effect.

No Coordination or Respect Between the Syrian ‘Street’ and the Opposition Groups

This may be the most important reason for holding off supplying aid to the Syrian opposition. There is a disconnect between the high-minded politicos who meet in the safety and security of Turkey and the street activists — mostly young men between the ages of 17-35 — who brave the bullets of Assad’s army and militia on a daily basis.

The activists feel that the job of opposition groups like the SNC is “to act on the demands of the street and get support for the rebels abroad,” according to one prominent street activist in Homs. “The Syrian people can lead their revolution against the regime by themselves,” he added.

Many of the street organizers pay little attention to the SNC and NCC because the vast majority of members of those groups have lived in exile for many years. The young men who are risking their lives and freedom by coordinating demonstrations, as well as smuggling video, audio, and written reports out of Syria to tell the world what is happening, scoff at the notion that any of the lawyers, human rights activists, clerics, or businessmen who haven’t lived in Syria — some of them for decades — can possibly earn their respect. It is their bodies on the line, and what a bunch of politicians decide in Ankara hardly impacts their daily battles with Assad’s security forces. That, and the groups’ continued promises of support and money have proven hollow. Colonel Asaad recently called the SNC “traitors” for their lack of follow through.

Even the Arab League appears reluctant to give much support to either the FSA or the opposition groups. A meeting scheduled for February 24 of the “Friends of Syria” will likely not decide to aid the opposition quite yet. “Gulf states and other Arab and non-Arab states that want to recognize the SNC fear splits inside the opposition, so that recognizing the SNC turns into a point of weakness for the opposition instead of a point of pressure on the regime,” said one Arab League official.

There are far too many unknowns and variables for the United States or Western powers to start aiding the opposition — even if the aid is non-lethal. Until there is unity among those trying to overthrow President Assad, the risks of aiding the wrong parties in one of the most important countries in the region outweighs any possible good we could do.

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  • Brian Donegal

    Christians in Syria prefer the Alawites because they are safer under their rule. We have seen what happened to the Copts with the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

    • Yoyo

      Christians been living in peace under the Muslim's rule for centenaries MORON !!
      Not only Christians , all minorities as well. Our last prime minster before Alawites took over was Christian. Read the history before making such nonsense comments.
      FYI, We don't care about Muslim brotherhood. To hell to that organization.

      • Brian Donegal

        The nonsense is coming from your brain. It is the radicals like the muslim brotherhood that are taking over. No Christian is safe.

  • crackerjack

    The Syrian people's rightfull push for a free and democractic society has been turned into civil war through intervention by the Saudis, Iranians and Turks.

    The Saudis support Sunni domination, Iranians support Shiite domination while the Turks are looking to renew Ottoman style economic and political dominance.

    At the same time we have the "West", running around frantically declaring itself in charge and moraly qualified in nation buliding.

    None of those involved are interested in the welfare nor the prosperity of the Syrian people. The Syrians are doomed.

    • dave

      Sunnis and Shias hate each other because of western foreign policy

      • UCSPanther

        Correction: They hate each other because of their differing views, and have hated each other long before Israel or the "west" even set foot there.

      • john gerard


        Sunni & Shi’ite muslims were killing each other for 1000 years before western foreign policy ever existed. Your statement is made out of ignorance. Educate yourself about Islam. They agree on 60% of Islam. And that 60% is about how to view, treat, subjugate, and wage war against non-muslims. The other 40% is about how many breaths you take when drinking a glass of water, or how to put on and take off a pair of sandals. Or how to enter and exit a bathroom – right foot first. I’m not joking. Does this sound of interest to non-muslims? Of course not, but the 60% IS…

      • ziontruth

        "Sunnis and Shias hate each other because of western foreign policy"

        No, they hate each other because of a war over potato fields that started in the 11th century. /sarc

        I mean, that's just as placing historical events and causes in their right time periods as your suggestion.

        And you are a traitor. Anyone who blames his own side is a traitor.

    • ziontruth

      "The Syrian people…"

      …does not exist. Drawing a border on multiple ethnic groups and religious sects and slapping the label of "Syrian nation" (or "Iraqi," or non-Jewish "Palestinian"…) does not a real nation make.

      For the same reason multiculturalism in general doesn't work. You know, the nation-mixing experiment Marxist traitors like you are pushing for the European nation-states you reside in.

  • Bamaguje

    The West’s do-good politicians never seem to learn from their past mistakes.

    In Iraq Saddam was booted out to among other things establish Iraq as a beacon of democracy in the Middle east.
    Instead Iraq has degenerated to near anarchy with Shiites & Sunnis killing each other, and Iran taking advantage of the power vacuum to increase influence.

    In Libya Obama, Sarkozy et al collobarated with Al-Qaeda linked Islamists to dethrone Gaddafi and ostensibly to establish democracy.
    Instead Sharia mongering Islamists have taken over, and out-of-control armed militias are running amok perpetrating more heinous atrocities than Ghaddafi ever did.

    In Egypt Obama supported the ouster of Mubarak; now repression and harrasment of Coptic Christians have increased and the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to take over.

    So much for democracy in the Middle east!!

  • maghrebchristians

    I am praying for the situation that is still rising in Syria, where people will see the ulitmate lead who is Jesus Christ. Remebering the Moroccan who went to prison for his faith 5 years ago and still in prison for another 10 years, we just pray for a breakthrough.



  • Yeshayahu Goldfeld

    There seemingly does not seem to be a way to assist the people of Syria in their struggle for decent conditions of life: Greedy Arab and Islamist interests are battling there for supremacy and any Western involvement is most probably doomed to facilitate the rise of a rapacious , totalitarian and messianic dictatorship led by Al Qaeda.

  • The Infidel

    Regardless of who wins, the next country on the agenda is Israel. iran only wants assad to win so they can move their troops and weapons closer to Israel so they can get some of the glory, rather than let the mb get all the jihadi points.

  • Amused

    Folly ? What would Mr.Moran have the US do ? The juggernaut of revolt in Syria has occurred independent of any of the aforementioned parties , and is a result of tyrannical rulers ,and the decades long abuse of their own people . NOW Assad , like his father , slaughters his own poeople . What would Mr. Moran have the US say ? At the moment raw humanitarian concerns have the attention of the rest of the world . Regardless of political results , a tyrant is slaughtering his people . Should the rebels prevail, it is THEIR COUNTRY , should the Dictator prevail , the political situation ion the M.E. will remain the same . As it stands today the US as well as Israel , has an enemy called Syria . This enemy has an organized professional miltary replete with air power , and as of yet has not and can not attack Israel or US interests overtly although it has in fact done so covertly as is well known ,and has in fact been a proxy of Iranian interests .
    So stop wringing your hands Mr. Moran , and let the chips fall were they may , for that will be the ultimate reality in Syria anyway .

    • Rick Moran

      You can't take "yes" for an answer can you. I point out the folly of supporting the opposition. How in God's name is that "wringing my hands?"

      On this planet, we call that a warning. And "letting the chips fall where they may" is exactly what I am recommending.

      Perhaps a remedial reading course might help your comprehension. I suggest your local community college.

      • MAD JEWESS

        Who in the hell is Obama, anyway, demanding leaders step down?
        HE is the one that needs to step down.
        Good article.

      • Steeloak

        Rick, I see you have met "Amused", one of FPM's resident Trolls. Like the rest of us, you will find the only thing "Amusing" about him is watching the logical contortions he goes through to justify his positions.

        • ziontruth

          Amused isn't a troll, he only has the flaw of cutting Obama too much slack.

        • Amused

          Steeloak and [admittedly ] Mad Jewess , thank you for making my point , which is the same pavlovian reaction to redmeat thrown into the arena . Therein lies my logic Mr.Moran . "feed for the masses "- toss it out and the ignorant will come . Obama is doing precisely what he or any US President should be doing , given the same situation . Decry the slaughter , on a humanitarian principle , stay out of the fray as far as any aid goes .Call for Assad to step aside . Period . It is more likely than not , if Assad remains , Iran will influence Syrian actions towards the west and Israel at a more critical time , than it would eventually happen if and when the rebel factions manage to uinite into something that would become an existential threat to Israel and the region . Funny how Republicans like Rubeo and McCain [regardless of any Democrat ] publicly calling for stronger actions , escape the scrutiny and criticism of the local denizens here . Instead they revert to the usual rhetoric

          • Amused

            As for your article Mr. Moran , while it is basically correct , given what you write the other 99.9% of the time , one cannot help but to see this one , as just another strawman , meant to evoke an expected response from the sycophants ….and it has .
            And to you Ziontruth , I simply say , I give slac where slac is due , and in this particular case , there is no legitimate criticism due Obama . At the moment so far , he has done excatly the right thing .

          • ziontruth

            "…there is no legitimate criticism due Obama…"

            Given that he's following the same "Islam is the religion of peace" course as Bush Jr., I'll grant there's nothing new to say. Anyhow, most of my criticisms of Obama are over the way he's running the American homeland to the ground with his fiscal policies.

    • Alvaro

      "Regardless of political results , a tyrant is slaughtering his people. Should the rebels prevail, the majority will slaugher religious minorities."

      Fixed that for you.


      You are with the Syrian Jihadists, its as simple as that.

    • crackerjack

      Wrong. The revolt of the Syrian people was mostly peacefull, similar to the Egyptian. The military violence came and still comes from outside in the masquarde of "deserters", "free armys" or "exiles".

  • hashim

    No where in the article do you show what the folly in supporting the rebels is. It is certain that Assad will loose power. He lost all legitimacy internal or external. Not to support the rebels now whatever their shortcomings might be, would be foolish to say the least. Because, at present, not supporting the rebels would be tantamount to supporting the Assad regime. The right thing to do is to call on Assad to give it up and encourage the opposition to increase their numbers. Doing otherwise is beyond folly.

    • curmudgeon

      yes. the shah was sure to lose power. so we supported the ayatollah. great move. it really paid off, didnt it? what would be wrong with declaring both sides to be evil, and round up all our own muslims, both homegrown and imported, and send them to syria? if they are such an asset to our country, surely they would be even more valuable there.

  • W. C. Taqiyya

    Rick, the Syrian upheaval is a great opportunity for the U.S. to diminish the power and prestige of her enemies. With Russia and Iran backing the Bashar regime in Syria, we can easily inflict damage on our enemies at little cost to us. Through Turkey, the Arab League and the U.N. we can paint the Russians and Iranians as supporters of genocide on the diplomatic front and 'encourage' other interested parties to funnel supplies and arms to the 'freedom' fighters. If the Turks grab a slice for themselves, who cares? Hopefully, the Syrian nation will emerge in several pieces, or severely weakened, and no longer pose a substantial threat to its neighbors. Rick, your arguments that the opposition is fractured or that terrorism will spread are hollow. I saw no reference in your article to Hezbollah and wonder if you overlooked the fact that Hezbollah is perhaps the best trained, equipped and financed terrorist organization in the world. Thanks to Syria and Iran, Hezbollah now rules much of Lebanon and is an existential threat to Israel. Without Iranian access to Syrian ports or Syrian political and military support, Hezbollah may wither on the vine and certainly wouldn't be able to sustain a war with Israel. So, since Syria and Iran are already leading sponsors of terrorists, concern about future conditions for terrorists are misplaced. With some deft diplomatic moves and a few well placed bribes we can soon have certain interested parties supplying the freedom fighters with food, medical supplies and cheap surplus Soviet weapons. No matter what the exact outcome, Syria and Iran will be weaker and Russia will suffer a diplomatic black eye. I call that a win win.

  • g_jochnowitz

    Sunnis, O Sunnis, you’ve just got to kill.
    If you have faith, you must find the will.
    Shiites, O Shiites, you’ve just got to slay.
    The mercy of Islam says: Jihad’s the way.

    Shiites and Sunnis, you both hate the Jews.
    Yet you must battle, despite your shared views.
    Killing a Muslim is certainly sad,
    But refraining from killing is sinfully bad.

  • Amused

    Addressing the expressed ignorance in the above posts regarding Shia /Sunni violence :
    It started in 632 at mohammed's death .. Abu Bakr is chosen as caliph, his successor. A minority favored Ali. These become known as Shiat Ali, or the supporters of Ali Those who supported abu Bakr became the Sunni . Neither the west or "potato fields" nor ANYTHING else is the cause for the split .The argument over choosing the successor, keeping in Mohammed's family line or one who is most apt to be caliph ,continues unabated to this day .Thry've been killing each other ever since with intermitten periods of relative quiet , as each considers the other APOSTATE , thus making both worthy of death in the eyes of the other .

  • Amused

    ….and yes , the only thing they both can agree on is , the elimination of Jews and The Goal of the Prophet , which is world subjugation to islam .

  • Flowerknife_us

    We really need to thank Russia and China for throwing a monkey wrench in Obamas plan to unite the region under MB rule. Neither side in this conflict bodes well for the West. Both have openly displayed their hostility towards us. Nothing good has come from the other revolts either. Cold as it may be, letting them fight it out on their own is really in our own best intrest.

    By all accounts, they all would not so much as blush over the mass murder of every Jew they could get their hands on. They all celebrated 9/11. So we should worry over the humanity they show each other, over the settling of differences amoung themselves?

  • theleastthreat

    They are not going to become Westerners no matter what we do. Afghanistan was trickier that we thought. So was Iraq. So was Egypt. Libya too. We can't fix this.

  • Jerry

    Democracy isn’t the great event everyone assumes it is. The great event was when our founding fathers determined that the government could not dictate a state religion – the so called “separation of church & state”. Today that has been misinterpreted to mean that religion should not be in government which was never the original intent, but only that the government could not impose a religion – something that the Islamic governments know nothing about. It seems that the liberals in their intent to oppose any inclusion of the Christian religion in government has caused them to be so deceived that they now think that democracy is the answer, even when that democracy has the intolerance of everything other than the state sponsored religion, the very thing that had led to the most horrible atrocities from pagan Rome to the inquisitions of the Roman Catholic Church. They are supporting the very thing that our founding fathers were attempting to escape.

  • curmudgeon

    no matter how evil a dictator in an islamic-majority country is, you can bet that islam can replace him with something worse, and you can also safely bet that leftist loons in the west will applaud the change.

  • mcwrath

    Whats the hurry in western countries in rushing to sort out the sitution in syria. (it is as someone mentioned as though their memories or reason are failing. the results of the 'arab spring' are a caotic disaster of islamic rule of persecution and opperession) Imagine thinking of supplying weapons to your enemies… Hinesight should tell you that american special forces and arms gave the mujahadeen too much support in their war with the ussr. Let them shoot eachother. But if there is something more real and more strategic and more crucial to the security of this world its to go after iran and thebomb.