Editorial: U.S. arms shipments to Syrian rebels harmed Geneva peace talks
Published: Monday, February 3, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 23:02
On Jan. 31 the Geneva II Conference on Syria ended in Switzerland without producing anything remotely resembling a firm agreement between the Syrian government and Syrian opposition forces. The effectiveness of the summit has always been dubious, as Ahmed Jarba, president of the Syrian National Council, does not represent Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS, which are two al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic militant forces with arguably the most successful – and horrifically violent – track record amongst the various opposition forces. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened the conference with Washington’s position that Assad had no option other than to step-down as President. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem countered that no power has the right to depose Assad except the Syrian people, which he followed up with the accusation that the West is trying to destabilize Syria – and the Middle East as a whole – by arming al-Qaeda affiliated terror groups. Though the United States has in fact been providing extensive lethal aid to Syrian rebels in the form of “light arms,” the exact identity of recipients is unknown, and this lends a sort of credence to Assad’s regime which ultimately harms the peace process.
A New York Times article by CJ Chivers and Eric Schmitt details extensive arms shipments supplied and orchestrated by the CIA, which are then airlifted through U.S. client states, such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia, into the hands of Syrian rebel factions. The shipments began in 2012, but intensified over the course of 2013, even during the period in which President Obama vowed to stop providing lethal aid to opposition forces. As many as 160 clandestine airdrops of munitions were orchestrated by the CIA in which Arab client states, such as Croatia, purchased U.S. arms to be flown into Syria by predominately Qatari vessels.
Now the exact contents of these shipments remain unknown, but “light arms” was a term used to describe lethal aid given to “moderate” Libyan militias in 2011. In the aftermath of the Algerian hostage crisis from January 2012, investigators found that most of the weapons used by the al-Qaeda hostage-takers were weapons gifted to Libyan militiamen by the US. The arms included AK-104 carbines, Belgian anti-tank mines, and C-5 missile launchers, all of which were used to kill 40 innocent workers. Similar U.S.-supplied arms are being used by al-Qaeda in their ongoing attempt to destabilize northern Mali, which has displaced at least 374,000 people. Syrian Minister Muallem may actually be telling the truth, which poses a serious blow to U.S. credibility, and will continue to mar the Syrian peace process.