US to start arming Syrian rebels, but will it make much difference?
Some senior US military officials question the strategic value of sending small arms and ammunition to the Syrian rebels. But other options – including a no-fly zone – also carry concerns.
Now that the White House says it has determined with “high certainty” that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its people, the United States is planning to send small arms and ammunition to rebel groups there.Skip to next paragraph
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Analysts and high-ranking military officials within the Pentagon, however, are warning that this plan may have dangerous and unintended consequences, including drawing the United States into another war in the Middle East.
Arming rebels may also be of questionable strategic value, some senior US military officials argue, although they add that other military options – notably a no-fly zone – would come with serious concerns as well.
Syria “is awash in weapons,” says one senior Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The main thing is, will it make a difference?”
Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona – one of the most outspoken advocates of establishing a no-fly zone and arming rebel groups with heavy anti-tank and anti-air weapons – acknowledged Friday on Fox News: “Just sending arms, very frankly, although they need them very badly ... is not going to change the situation on the ground.”
However, a no-fly zone would be “quite frankly, an act of war,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander, warned earlier this month.
Senior military officials, for their part, have argued that a no-fly zone would be of questionable strategic value since 10 percent of the casualties inflicted by the Syrian opposition have occurred through the use of air power. “The other 90 percent are by direct fire or by artillery,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Monitor breakfast in April.