France and UK May Arm Syrian Rebels Despite EU Embargo

Credit: FreedomHouse/FlickrCredit: FreedomHouse/FlickrThe French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France and the U.K. have “identical views” on the Syrian conflict and would consider arming Assad’s opposition, even if such a move would be in violation of the European Union’s arms embargo on Syria.

The embargo, which British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the U.K. could try to veto, is up for extension in May.

Fabius’ comments come a day after Russia warned the U.K. that arming the Syrian rebels would be a violation of international law, a sentiment that was repeated by Syria’s state media. While the Russians might not be happy with military aid being sent to Syrian rebels, Turkey’s foreign minister expressed support for Fabius’ statements. From Reuters:

Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country is a fierce critic of Assad and harbors Syrian refugees and rebels, backed Fabius' comments.

"If the international community displayed in a very clear and decisive manner the will to stop the Syrian regime waging war, there would be no need for any kind of arming," he said.

Echoing comments by Russia, which has protected Assad from any U.N. measures, Syria's state news agency SANA said arming rebels would be a "flagrant violation of international law".

One of the concerns about arming the Syrian opposition is that jihadist elements among the Syrian rebels could acquire weapons that would help these groups further destabilize the region. It seems that these concerns are becoming less considered; an unnamed senior French official told Reuters the following:

The well-known arguments against arming the rebels - finding a political solution first, not militarizing the situation or weapons falling into the wrong hands - are losing their impact,

However, it looks as if a conflict between the Shiite Assad ally Hezbollah and the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra could begin along the Syrian border with Lebanon, further complicating the conflict. Given that it would be impossible for any country to assure that arms it supplies to Syrian rebels would not fall into the hands of elements that could make the conflict worse it is hard to see why an increasing number of foreign politicians seem so keen to arm Assad’s opposition. 

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  • CatoTheElder||

    Whenever a State wants to a permanent war on terror, it's always a good idea to get involved in civil wars. Especially in tribal societies with distinct religious differences and hundreds of years of inter-tribal animosity. It's guaranteed to create new enemies, which will supply terrorists for years to come.

  • DJF||

    So Britain and France, two countries who can’t even afford to maintain their own militaries and are cutting back are going to give away weapons to Syrian rebels with unknown loyalty and goals?

  • Counterfly||

    They're playing to their bases.

  • Counterfly||

    Hey I'm all for arming all everyone. I'd prefer you didn't make me pay for it.

    But also, after you arm them, they get to clean up their own mess.

  • phandaal||

    The problem is, once the fighting in Syria ends the "freedom fighters" (who are actually terrorists who've left Iraq) will go elsewhere and start fighting again.

    Example: The end of fighting in Lybia let to destabilization in Mali when the terrorists participating in the overthrow of Lybia's government left the country.

    The only good option is to not give either faction material military aid or training.

  • phandaal||

    *Libya. Must be lysdexic this morning.

  • MWG||

    "The problem is, once the fighting in Syria ends the "freedom fighters" (who are actually terrorists who've left Iraq) will go elsewhere and start fighting again."

    That's a pretty big brush you're using.

  • Tim||

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • phandaal||

    Giving weapons and training to terrorists? No problem!

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The Syrian rebels could acquire weapons that would help these groups further destabilize the region."

    It might further destabilize the region!

    Never mind that the region has some nasty dictatorships about that could use some serious destabilization.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Given that it would be impossible for any country to assure that arms it supplies to Syrian rebels would not fall into the hands of elements that could make the conflict worse it is hard to see why an increasing number of foreign politicians seem so keen to arm Assad’s opposition."

    What are you looking for--a rebel with a heart of gold?

    Hello, Pollyanna!

    If we ever need to overthrow a vicious dictator of our own here in the U.S., I hope we never have to count on Feeney for support.

    Sheesh.

  • np||

    You're assuming the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra rebels are better than Assad. Assad far from a saint, but he has so far kept all the radical Islamists in check and various minority ethnic and religious groups including Christians have been protected under his rule.

    Basically, in helping his overthrow, the outcome will be like Egypt or Libya or worse.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I understand if you're making the argument that making nice with a vicious dictator is somehow in the best interests of American security. I've made that argument myself on occasion.

    But Assad's most important ally is Iran--and vice versa. If Assad falls, Iran will lose an important ally, which is why Iran (and Hezbollah) are helping Assad fight the rebels like mad.

    http://www.reuters.com/article.....5U20130314

    Iran sees Assad's regime as critical to its security interests...seeing Assad fall is not likely to go against America's long term security interests.

    And, of course, if we exclude the idea that Assad remaining in power might be in the U.S.'s long tern security interests, that leaves a pretty nasty possibility hanging out there. ...that some of my fellow libertarians might be arguing against freedom and in favor of oppression--because they don't like what the Syrian people might do with their freedom. I'm not saying that's you here--I'm saying if the shoe fits, wear it.

    ...but if you are wearing that shoe, you shouldn't be surprised if someone calls you out for supporting oppression and fearing freedom--not if someone calls you out for something like that in a libertarian forum.

  • DJF||

    Sorry, but you are not supporting oppression by taking taxpayer dollars and giving them to “freedom fighters” in another country. You are oppressing the taxpayer if you do it.

    If you want to send money to the “freedom fighters” then do it. You probably won’t even be criminally charged by the US government because they support those rebels. That is until a few years from now when those same rebels are now our enemy and then the US government will remember you.

    Also I notice that you don’t even care about the Syrians, its just a way to go after the Iranians and you are using this civil war so don’t cry about the freedom of the Syrians since if you could put an absolute dictator in charge you would support it if it hurt some other enemy of yours.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Sorry, but you are not supporting oppression by taking taxpayer dollars and giving them to “freedom fighters” in another country. You are oppressing the taxpayer if you do it."

    I didn't think using American taxpayer money was at issue here, but I have to say that national defense is one of the things I'm willing to pay taxes for.

    If Iran is a legitimate threat to American security (and with a nuclear program and long range missile program, it is), then there are valid questions about how best to defend against that threat. If we need to deploy missile defense or some nuclear deterrent near Iran, that could be a lot more expensive than sending Syrian rebels some small arms to deprive Iran of a critical ally.

    I don't want to see the U.S. get involved in Syria at all at this point, but I'm not an anarchist. I think we have a national defense with a legitimate role in protecting our rights from foreign threats, and that's one of the few things I think our taxes can and should be used for legitimately.

    Using that tax money in the most effective and least expensive way possible is something I think our government should strive for, and if that were best achieved by arming Syrian rebels, then that's something I'd support doing.

    ...I just don't think that's in our best interests at this point in time (especially if France and the UK are willing to do it).

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Also I notice that you don’t even care about the Syrians, its just a way to go after the Iranians and you are using this civil war so don’t cry about the freedom of the Syrians since if you could put an absolute dictator in charge you would support it if it hurt some other enemy of yours."

    My primary concern is with American security. My opposition to the Iraq War was predicated, primarily, on it not being in the best interests of American security...

    ...but I had humanitarian objections, too. And I feel the same way about Syrians. The future of Syria should be up to the Syrians--not some vicious dictator. Right now, many of them are choosing to fight their dictator, which is very different from the U.S. choosing to overthrow Saddam Hussein regardless of whether the Iraqi people wanted to be invaded or not.

    We didn't pick the fight between Assad and the Syrian people--the Syrian people did. That doesn't mean we can't pick a side. It certainly doesn't mean I can't pick a side--I'm rooting for the Syrian people.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Fabius’ comments come a day after Russia warned the U.K. that arming the Syrian rebels would be a violation of international law, a sentiment that was repeated by Syria’s state media."

    Vladamir Putin and Assad are worried about the rule of law?

    Amazing how when dictators are presented with rebels trying to overthrow them, they're suddenly concerned about the rule of law.

    Not enough to stop Assad from gunning down unarmed civilians or shelling whole cities for opposing him, but still, he's very concerned about international law.

    Makes me want to vomit.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Amnesty International: Syrian rebels often kill captives

    Syrian rebels routinely kill captured soldiers and suspected regime informers, human rights monitors said Thursday, warning of mounting war crimes committed by those trying to topple President Bashar Assad.


    Reports of rebel abuses come as the Syrian opposition appears to be gaining momentum in a 2-year-old conflict that, according to the U.N., has killed more than 70,000 people.


    Abuses by the Assad regime remain far more deadly, systematic and widespread, particularly attacks on civilians with imprecise battlefield weapons, including widely banned cluster bombs, the London-based group Amnesty International said.

    I'm never entirely sure where I fall on the Evilness Scale, but I'm truly in favor of letting these fuckers wipe each other out (إن شاء الله) sans American interference.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't want to see us get involved either.

    But if Assad's fall hurts Iran, and it gives the Syrian people a chance to start holding themselves and their own leaders accountable for what happens to them, then I hope Assad's head ends up on a pike.

    Oh, and even if Islamists ultimately gained power in Syria? Take a look at the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and see how taking power has left them with little more than their hands full.

    Being on the outside looking in is easy--you can blame all your problems on the dictator and/or call for all sorts of terrible things against the West. Once you're the people in power, though, suddenly you have to try to start solving problems. Suddenly the outside world can seem like a potential source of solutions...

    It worked that way in China--eventually. It seems to be working that way in Egypt. We should be offering the Egyptians a free trade agreement right about months ago. Wouldn't it be great if our relationship with Egypt (and Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood) was more like our current relationship with the Communist Party in China?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I think the Chinese Communists and the Sunni Jihadists are two different classes of beasts. The Reds are simply a continuation of the Legalist/Confucian totalitarianism that has dominated China since the Qin. The Reds want to get power and keep it. If that means turning their country into America's factory, so be it.

    The Muslim Brotherhood is a different story. If they have their way, Egypt will look like a carbon copy of Iran, only it will be Sunni clerics instead of Shi'a ayatollahs ruling the country.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The server ate my response!

    Suffice it to say, that the scale of various Islamist movements wouldn't be what they are without all the oppression groups like the MB have suffered over the decades. When the oppression disappears, the force that created a lot of those jihadis disappears, too.

    I don't know that the Sunni clerics will end up running the country. Things could turn for the worse--like they did in China for some time after communism. But there was no way things are ever going to get better so long as there's a vicious dictator sitting on top of all the opportunities that should be afforded to young men in a more free society.

    Again, that oppression sucks away at opportunities, which left a lot of young men in places like Egypt, Libya, and Syria with not much better to do than be a jihadi. It's going to take time, but I believe the young men of the coming decades may find themselves with more opportunities to be free and prosperous than their fathers did under the dictators.

    I don't think there's anything about Islam that makes average young Muslim men prefer the life of a jihadi, on one hand, to opportunity and prosperity on the other. And I don't think there were a lot of young men in Libya, Egypt, and Syria who were never going to get a shot at opportunity and prosperity so long as they had a vicious dictator ruining society for them.

  • Josua||

    Good thinking! I mean, isn't that just what Europe needs? To arm jihadist groups that affiliate with al-Qaida? What geniuses!

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