Sen. Bob Corker (R- Tenn.), a ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that he thinks the U.S. will be arming Syrian rebels soon. What is perhaps more disturbing is that Corker also said that, "We're doing a lot more on the ground than really is known...”
Middle Eastern and Western troops already reportedly took part in an operation to arm Syrian rebels back in March, and last month the Pentagon said that the additional American forces being sent to Jordan was a sign that the U.S. will be increasingly involved in the Syrian civil war.
Increased involvement could mean imposing a no-fly zone or conducting air strikes, but Corker’s comments that “We're doing a lot more on the ground than really is known” suggests that American forces are already assisting Syrian rebels.
Obama has come under pressure recently to ramp up involvement in Syria after reports emerged that the Assad regime may have used chemical weapons and thereby crossing the self-imposed “red line” after which the U.S. would supposedly intervene further in Syria. Matt Welch wrote about the crossing of this “red line” back in March.
If the Obama administration is going to authorize the arming of Assad’s opposition it needs to explain what steps will be put in place to stop whatever weapons the U.S sends from ending up in the hands of jihadist groups that are fighting against Assad. If the U.S. unknowingly arms rebels that are aiming to establish an Islamic state in Syria it is hard to see how American interests will be made safer as a result. Even among those who believe that humanitarian intervention is justified it must be admitted that Syria is not the same as Bosnia (despite what some might think) and that both sides of the Syrian civil war contain elements that we should not be assisting.
Should increased involvement in the Syrian conflict include the authorization of air strikes or the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria then there must be an explanation that details how long such an operation will last and where the administration believes Assad's allies will go were such an operation authorized. While NATO’s campaign of air strikes and the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya did help overthrow Gaddafi it has had less than desirable consequences in Mali, and it would be naïve to think that a similar operation in Syria would somehow have contained effects.
Lastly, the Obama administration needs to detail how involved the U.S. will be in a post-Assad Syria. Will the U.S. government be sticking around once the conflict is over? If so, on what authority, with what remit, and for how long?