US sticks to refusal to arm Syria rebels

2012-08-03 11:00

Washington - The United States is stepping up support for the Syrian rebels but, despite the failure of UN envoy Kofi Annan's mission, is sticking to its refusal to pour arms into a complex conflict.

Annan, the UN and the Arab League's pointman on Syria, resigned on Thursday, leaving the diplomatic track in shreds and spurring calls for action, but the US administration again said it was not considering military intervention.

"Our position has not changed: We provide non-lethal assistance to the opposition," White House spokesperson Jay Carney said aboard Air Force One.

"We don't believe that adding to the number of weapons in Syria is what's needed to help bring about a peaceful transition."

The 17-month uprising against Assad has already cost more than 20 000 lives, many of them civilian, and raised fears that the embattled Syrian leader could unleash his arsenal of chemical weapons.

Some experts and US lawmakers now openly question whether Washington should not use its superior military strength and intelligence capabilities to tip the scales in the favour of the opposition and hasten the regime's demise.

Fears of post-Assad bloodbath

But the US administration is reluctant to become embroiled in another Middle Eastern war with November's election looming.

Fearing a post-Assad bloodbath in Syria, it has insisted that adding more weapons into the mix - beyond Assad's impressive government stockpile and the rebels' growing arsenal of smuggled guns - would only fuel more violence.

"Our analysis is that the regime's capability is being weakened. That the Syrian army soldiers are becoming demoralised and that the Syrian opposition are gaining ground," a State Department spokesperson, Patrick Ventrell, said.

"So our strategy is having an effect," he insisted. "We are going to continue to use every lever that we have in our plan to hasten the day that Assad steps aside."

Reports on Wednesday citing unnamed US officials said President Barack Obama had signed a document allowing covert support to the rebels and which would authorise clandestine action by the Central Intelligence Agency.

That would permit Washington to offer all kinds of assistance, including organising contact with various rebel groups, providing communications and intelligence assets and assessments.

$25m in non-lethal support

And, while Washington may not be directly providing arms, some of its allies are, as part of a regional strategy designed to prioritise direct involvement by Syria's neighbours with Washington's support and ultimately weaken US foe Iran.

"The fact of the matter is that the rebels are getting the support, there is a strategy in place to have the regime fall, a crack from within," Reva Bhalla of Stratfor, a global intelligence forecasting consultancy, said.

"The US is not hiding the fact that it is very involved there and using those covert channels as Turkey and the Saudis are," she said, pointing to the fact that the rebels now appeared to be fighting with heavy weapons.

"Let's be realistic here - those weapons are getting to the rebels, even if it is not coming from the US directly, the rebels do seem to be getting that kind of support."

About $25m in non-lethal US support such as communications has already been earmarked for the Syrian opposition.

And on Thursday Obama approved an extra $12m in humanitarian aid for Syrians to mitigate what he said were Assad's "horrific atrocities".

Annan departure blamed on Russia, China

The grant brings to $76m the amount of food, water, medical supplies and other aid being funnelled via agencies like the World Food Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to some of the 1.5 million Syrians in need.

US strategy was "to accelerate our sanctions, to squeeze this regime as they run out of money, it's to assist the opposition so they can better communicate and organise and get around a political transition plan", Ventrell said.

Washington blamed Annan's departure on Russian and Chinese intransigence after both nations three times blocked resolutions in the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on the Assad government.

"I did not receive all the support that the cause deserved," Annan said, as he announced the end of his mission.

Ventrell said that "given where we are, given the continued onslaught and given where... there's not a Security Council consensus on this, it's not surprising that we are seeing him step down".

But the United States maintained that Annan's six-point plan was "a framework we continue to support and to go forward with in the context of our wider strategy".

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-03 12:11

    If you wanted a genuine peacefull transition you would pressure your lackeys to sit down with the Syrian government. But that is not what you want in Syria, but rather to win a lot of things - to make it either powerless or a help to the West against Lebanon/Hezbollah and Iran, and to make it agreeable to whatever Israel wants for the Golan, water rights, and refugees. The US seeks to make Syria into another Western post in the steady spread of Western power.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-03 13:36

      You conveniently forget to mention; What the Syrian people want; An end to FIFTY YEARS of ruthless rule, by a family of terrorists !! But rather instead spew some anti Western CRAP !!

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-08-03 14:04

      Mgoqi's comments are devoid of any intelligence.

      ghengis.khan.585 - 2012-08-03 15:12

      Gerhard. I have not once see any intelligent post from you. All you do is agree with the mainstream media and criticize people who have actually researched the situation. It seems like you need to take the pole out of your own eye..old man. The fact that the US has a bigger plan with the entire region is obvious. The US have never been humanitarians, they wiped out an entire race (Native American Indians)they have sponsored wars in various countries, continue to kill innocent people in Afghanistan almost daily. These rebels are terrorist who are staging war against the government. The US supports them while they also support Koffi Annans plan that both parties should negotiate towards a transitional government. They have proxies like Saudi Arabia, Quatar, etc which are providing these terrorists with weapons, so the US does not need to. If this is about democracy, then why are the Saudi's not giving up power, and Bahrain, and Quatar? These are all countries who have been run by one family for who knows how long. The Bahrain PM has been in his position since the 50's. This is about removing people who don not want to work with the US, started with Saddam, then Gaddafi, now Assad, and ultimately Iran will be the final stop for full middle east control. One only needs to scrape the surface to realise that everything is about money and power. The casualties of this war of lies are the Syrian people.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-03 16:59

      Ghengis, ""All you do is agree with the mainstream media....."" Don't be so pathethically childish !!!! GROW UP !!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-08-04 07:14

      Notwithstanding the actual headline, "US sticks to refusal to arm Syria rebels", and the well known fact that the US is not helping the FSA enough, Fidel, with his highly immature anti-West core belief, sees the US as heavily involved.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-08-04 15:11

      ghengis.khan anybody you calls himself that immediately must compare himself to Stalin who of course looks like a sunday teacher in comparison. Quite obviously I am on the other side. If we do not go to the east, they will come to us. So there . . . . .

  • Shane Loxton - 2012-08-03 14:45

    Anthony how many of the Rebels are Syrian? it was found out after the Libyan conflict that only about 35% of those rebels were actually Libyan

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-03 16:57

      That is just not true, you just suck this out of your thumb, so to spew a bit of anti Western BS. Anyhow, I hope you feel better now !!!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-08-04 07:17

      Shane, a reference like that requires a source, otherwise its only an opinion, in this case a faulty one. Obviously.

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