Initially, the revolution in Syria was an opportunity for Syrians to liberate themselves from the oppression of their President Bashar al-Assad. Now, the revolution has devolved into what can only be classified as a brutal proxy war. A proxy war in the Middle East would not be complete without an unwanted American presence, and so, it is no surprise that on Thursday U.S. officials announced that Barack Obama authorized weapon transfers to the Syrian rebels.
The justification for the transfer of weapons is a typical one; supposedly U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that Assad's forces have used chemical weapons against the rebels. Although Obama has repeatedly stated over the last two years that the use of chemical weapons would be a 'red line' for American intervention, the timing of the announcement seems extremely convenient with recent tactical victories for Assad's forces including the routing of rebel forces from the strategic town of Qusayr.
Beyond regarding the announcement of the American announcement suspiciously, two more questions must be asked of the governments' motives. First, have they actually found chemical weapons? Anyone somewhat aware of American foreign policy knows that the supposed presence of chemical/nuclear weapons in Iraq was used as the ideological justification for America's disastrous intervention. Anyone who continued to follow the American tragedy in Iraq is also aware that these weapons were never found, nor did the American government ever actually believe they would be there.
As such, and at the very least, American officials should disclose the knowledge they have to verify that Assad's forces actually have used chemical weapons. This does not mean that an American intervention would be useful or justified even if the use of chemical weapons were uncovered, which brings the next question one must ask of the American government's motives. Do they actually care if chemical weapons were used?
'Suspicions' of chemical weapon use have been mentioned by Obama since April. Unless the Americans truly did discover irrefutable proof of the use of chemical weapons this week, it implies that they allowed Assad's forces to use these weapons before without any repercussions in the form of arms transfers. That is, until Assad' forces started to command a lead in the conflict. This situation is highly unlikely however, as the American government has no track record of making sure their intelligence is correct (or even caring if it is correct) before killing others because of it.
Finally, the rebels have also been accused by many, including the Former chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, of actually being the ones using chemical gas. While these claims should be regarded as suspiciously as the American's claims of the use of chemical gas by Assad's forces, they have to be considered. Have the Americans even attempted to investigate this possibility? Furthermore, would the Americans pull their support from the rebels if it turned out to be true?
While the latter question cannot yet be answered, evidence points to the contrary. Although we do not know if the Syrian rebels have used chemical gas, we do know many things about them. For example, we know that the most powerful groups which make up the rebel force are al Qaeda sponsored and supported Jihadist groups. We know that these groups are actually supported (or at least not condemned) by many of the 'good guy' rebels the Americans claim that their weapons will be going to, as they see these terrorist groups as useful regardless of their actions (including massacring civilians and eating people) and motives for involvement (the establishment of an oppressive Salafist state). We also know that these groups often work together, so the chances of American arms remaining in the hands of the so called 'good guy' rebels are extremely slim.
With what we know (and of course, from American actions in the past), it seems that the American government is OK with supporting terrorists. How much of a stretch is it to believe they may support groups who use chemical weapons?
In the short term, American involvement is suspicious, as well as not wanted by many within Syria. Over the course of the next few months, American weapon transfers will inevitably contribute to more death and destruction, as it is unlikely that Assad's supporters (which include Hezbollah and Russia) will cut their aid. On a more long term basis, the likely possibility that Jihadist groups in Syria (such as Jabhat Al-Nusra) will seize some America weapons could mean more terrorist attacks on American soil and elsewhere.
Although many Americans (both civilians and government officials) do not support their government's intervention in Syria, unfortunately an attack on American soil by the same groups their government funds may be the only way to illustrate how destructive American aid can be. But perhaps not, as it would be fair for one to believe that 9/11 would be enough evidence for any sane person.
Follow Davide Mastracci on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavideMastracci