Giving Weapons to Divided and Suspicious Rebels in Syria is a Bad Idea


Credit: VOA News; Scott Bobb reporting from Aleppo, Syria

Today, Reason 24/7 featured an article by Mike Giglio from the Daily Beast that outlines the rifts that exist within Assad's opposition. Aside from the different ideologies motivating rebels in Syria suspicion between different rebel groups over money and weapons also threatens the campaign against Assad.

From the Daily Beast:

Suspicion among rebels over money and arms is a persistent backdrop to their campaign against Assad. In recent months, wayward rebels have attempted to raid weapons warehouses belonging to the rebellion's main umbrella group, the Free Syrian Army, says Bassam al-Dada, an FSA adviser. Accusations of arms hoarding, meanwhile, are commonplace—with rebel groups suspecting each other of stockpiling weapons for what they call "the day after," possibly to be used on one another if Assad falls. Some rebel groups "are using the revolution so that in the day after, when they topple the regime, they can be powerful," says Safi al-Safi, a rebel commander in Hama. "There is something they say a lot here in Syria: that after toppling the regime, the real fight will begin."

This should give anyone who wants to give weapons to rebels in Syria some pause. As awful as Assad is, what some rebels have planned for after he is no longer in power could be just as tragic and could further destabilize the region. The Daily Beast article highlights that Assad's opposition includes groups (at least one of which is linked to Al Qaeda) that have no problem kidnapping, torturing, mutilating, and murdering people.

It is hard to see how Assad could still be in power once the civil war in Syria is over. Once Assad is gone it is far from clear what will happen. Given the diversity of Assad's opposition there is a good chance that there will not be a smooth transition from the current regime to whatever follows and that Syria will continue to be a mess even without Assad in power, and one American policy makers would do well to avoid.