Saudi Gazette editorializes about the US government’s decision to become involved in Syria’s civil war. The paper finds there to be compelling reasons for US engagement, even as it casts doubts on whether the Syrian government has used (or even has) chemical weapons, the ‘red line’ that triggered the US decision.
The piece argues that light weapons aren’t the answer the opposition forces are looking for. It says that a ‘No-Fly Zone’ is too dangerous. It acknowledges that the US has concerns that heavy weapons might fall into the wrong hands as the opposition does have some bad actors (including Al-Qaeda) among its ranks. But, it argues, the US must do more!
What’s signally lacking the the editorial is any discussion about what Saudi Arabia is doing or ought to do. Press reports over the past few months have suggested that Saudi Arabia is providing arms — what sort, we don’t know — to the rebels — just who, we don’t know. We’ve no verification of this, though. Perhaps the government of Saudi Arabia would like to step up and inform the world just what it is doing and is prepared to do. Lacking such information, this very much sounds like someone on the perimeter of a fight urging the combatants on while staying safely out of reach.
After more than two years of showing little appetite for intervention on a large scale, President Obama’s decision to begin arming Syria’s rebels marks a turning point for the US which up to now had avoided getting drawn into the conflict militarily. But the decision does not appear to have the impact needed to tilt the balance in favor of the rebels. US support which looks likely to involve the supply of only light arms and ammunition is not enough. Obama’s concern about high-powered weapons ending up in the hands of terrorist groups and his opposition to sending American troops into Syria offsets AK-47s which have little effect on tanks.
The reason for the decision, the “game changer” in US policy as Obama previously cited, is the estimated 150 people killed in multiple chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The White House said it had “conclusive evidence” – although it has not made the evidence public. The first reaction when America announces that it has “proof” of an Arab country possessing chemical weapons is to remember when America wrongly claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That “evidence” led to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and all the ruin and wreck that followed.
Even if Washington is incorrect about Syria’s chemical weapons, even if it turns out Bashar Al-Assad is not using his sarin stockpile or does not have any in the first place, does Obama need chemical weapons as an excuse to enter the Syrian conflict? Is not the fact that at least 93,000 people have been killed – most of them civilians – enough reason to help? For almost one year, the number of people killed has averaged more than 5,000 every month. Even at the height of the bloodletting in Iraq in 2006, the monthly death count only twice went over 3,000. If any more distressing numbers are needed, then 1,700 children in Syria under the age of 10 have died.