Arming “Moderate” Rebels in Syria? Really??

Let’s start with the facts.

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In late August 2013, the US government and the rest of the western world accused the President/dictator of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, of using sarin gas against an innocent village. This crossed Obama’s “Red Line”, so the US geared up for a military strike against Syria and Assad’s government.

Luckily, before getting pulled into another Middle Eastern quagmire, Russian leader Vladimir Putin came in and saved the day by arranging a deal where Syria surrendered its chemical weapons.

Not content to let the evil Assad gain any advantage in Syria’s civil war, Obama decided to aid the “moderate” rebels by providing them with weapons that he had already promised to send them months earlier. There were all sorts of protections put in place to ensure that these arms went to the moderate factions, and not the extremists.

Of course, that whole fiasco was a farce. There is no proof that Assad’s government used chemical weapons. The range of the rockets used to deploy the sarin gas was too short for them to have been launched from government controlled territory, as was shown by physicists from MIT. In fact, according to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the responsibility for the attack lies with the opposition, who was aided by Turkish intelligence. I’m not going to claim that I know who used the sarin gas, but the physical evidence and the US government’s record of lying about weapons of mass destruction would lead me to pause before accepting Obama’s official narrative.

In any case, Obama and the neoconservatives’ plan for war with Syria was foiled at that time. But in the past few months, an organization known as ISIS, ISIL, or IS (depending on who you ask) emerged out of nowhere and has become the greatest terrorist threat since al-Qaeda. These monsters have been oppressing all the villages they have taken control over, committed mass murders, and even beheaded two American journalists.

How did this organization, practically nonexistent a year ago, come to carve out large swathes of Syria and Iraq for their “Caliphate”?

It turns out that rebels who would later join ISIS received training in then secret CIA camps set up in Jordan in 2012. Not only that, but they’ve picked up American weaponry both as a byproduct of the US support of Syrian rebels as well as through their conquest of northern Iraq. Even weaponry that was sent to Libya to help fight against Gaddafi (with US support) have ended up in the hands of jihadis in Syria and elsewhere.

Given these facts, how do we make sense of the fact that Obama (and many others) are proposing the idea of further arming the “moderate” rebels in Syria in order to fight ISIS? The current proposal is to send an aid package of $500 million to these rebels. Somehow, the fact that our ongoing attempts to do this have led to vastly increasing the strength of ISIS has escaped the attention of policy makers.

The way I see it, there are two possibilities: either it has been the intention of the US defense establishment to strengthen extremist elements all along, or officials are absurdly stupid. In the first case, the US is clearly blameworthy for the entire mess we face right now, and the moral blindness of it all is almost too much to accept. In the second case, how in the world do these policy makers propose to keep these arms in the hands of true moderates?

Consider the fact that the US spent $25 billion to build up the Iraqi army over the past 10+ years. This is the official army of a state that was physically occupied by the US. The soldiers had direct training and weapons from the US. And they had it for years. Yet this army collapsed almost immediately against ISIS. Does anybody really think that a ragtag, disorganized group of “moderates”, in a country without US ground presence or any semblance of control, is going to be able to defeat both the brutal, US armed ISIS as well as Assad’s forces? The suggestion is laughable, and yet here we are.

Oh, and that’s assuming that, against all odds, the arms that were directed to support these “moderate” fighters don’t end up in the hands of ISIS anyways. If the Iraqi army could fold that quickly, it seems silly to think that a weak and fragmented group of Syrian rebels would fare much better.

Oh, and that’s assuming that these rebels that we propose to send arms to are decent, upstanding, liberty-minded people themselves. ISIS has already co-opted numerous US-backed rebel groups amidst the shifting alliances during the Syrian civil war. Not only that, but these “moderates” seem to have a thing for beheadings as well.

The fact that seemingly intelligent people are seriously suggesting that the US arm rebels in Syria is insane. As Mugato said in Zoolander: “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

Update: Since posting this, it has come to my attention that some “moderate” rebel groups in Syria have signed a non-aggression pact with ISIS. 


  1. The plan to arm and train the rebels was written as an amendment to a spending bill that would keep the U.S. government operating on Oct. 1, the start of a new fiscal year.


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