Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Syrian Conflict and Aid from the U.S.

Today, the fighting in Syria still continues, especially in the larger and coastal cities within the country. Those familiar with the issue don't believe that the conflict in Syria will end any time soon as rebel forces maintain that Assad must leave power before talks on reforming the country can happen. In an interview with the newspaper The Sunday Times, Assad stated that he was willing to talk to rebels who ceased fighting and put down their weapons in order to reach compromise, but insisted that he would not be leaving his office. The two sides firmly sticking to their positions only further shows that the conflict may be quite prolonged.

Another contributing factor in prolonging the fighting is the United State's recent commitment to provide aid to the rebel fighting groups in Syria. Though the aid will be nonlethal, instead of weapons, food and other supplies will be provided, this aid could keep rebel groups fighting and healthy when they otherwise wouldn't have been able to continue. Both foreign ministers from Iran and Syria criticized the U.S. stating that Assad is legally the Syrian president and has a right to remain as such until the next presidential election. Further contributing to the pressure that the United States is putting on Assad's regime to leave power are the economic sanctions against the country that are still in place, in what the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem called a "double-standard". The Foreign Minister stated that instead of helping the people of Syria, the U.S. is harming them with the sanctions and the money they have committed to the opposition forces would be better spent on assisting the Syrian people.

These two issues, the opposition and Assad's seeming unwillingness to compromise and the United States aid are both incredibly important to the state of the conflict in Syria as both issues can only help to drag out a brutal and bloody conflict. People in the United States should care because we should hold our government responsible to make foreign policy decisions that eradicate conflict in Syria, rather than helping it continue. It is also important because the conflict has been at a stalemate of sorts in that neither side is currently winning, which could show why Assad is saying he is ready to talk to the leaders of the opposition in order to resolve a battle that is not necessarily going anywhere. It will remain to be seen whether the aid from the U.S. is able to push rebel forces' goals farther or only contribute the stalemate of fighting that has been happening recently.

When looking at this issue, we can see just how important it is for nonviolence to be the backbone of a revolution. In Syria, the conflict remains incredibly bloody, but has also not moved in the direction it looked like it was going to two years ago. In my opinion, it is important for the United States to try to help the people in Syria find a resolution in a diplomatic way, whether that is possible or not. Having the United States interfere in a fight that is not moving forward in all the ways that it should could end up hurting the innocent citizens of Syria, especially because nonlethal aid isn't truly what the rebel forces are in need of. In regards to Assad's willingness to talk to opposition leaders, I think that it is important for them to agree to do this. Without those talks, Syria could remain in this battle for quite some time, which does nothing for the country as a whole.

Works Cited

Oweis, Khaled Yacoub. "Opposition Leader Visits Syria amid Assad Offensive." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 03 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. <>.
Press, The Associated. "Iran and Syria Ministers Assail U.S. on Rebel Aid." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. <>.
"Syria Foreign Minister Accuses US of Double-standard Policy." PressTV - Syria Foreign Minister Accuses US of Double-standard Policy. Press TV, 02 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. <>.


  1. It is interesting to see how external actors such as the U.S., Russia, and Iran are taking on more of a role in the Syrian conflict. The most recent development—U.S. providing non-lethal aid to the rebels—shows a new level of commitment in the conflict, though providing lethal aid might better serve the Syrian rebels. Providing lethal aid would help to level the playing field against the more experienced and well—armed Syrian Army. Negotiations are a good idea, but I am not entirely convinced that they will get anywhere. Assad refuses to leave power, and the rebels refuse to have him in power, especially after he slaughtered tens of thousands, and displaced even more.

    Russia and Iran continue to be staunch supporters of Assad. According to this week’s article “Explaining External Support for Insurgent Groups”, Russia’s and Iran’s support for the regime may help to explain why the U.S. is becoming more involved. The article finds that in a civil war if the government has external support (i.e., Russia & Iran) the rebels are far more likely to receive external support (i.e., U.S.). In my opinion we will see more international actors (i.e., Britain) get involved that will eventually provide lethal-aid to the rebels, especially if negotiations fail.

  2. I'm not entirely convinced that lethal aid is imminent. In fact, it is clear that the United States has chosen to provide nonlethal aid in order to prevent the ignition of a large scale violent conflict between Russia, or Iran, or both. Sure, nonlethal aid and sanctions may not be the most beneficial action for the Syrian public in the short term but it may be necessary for the U.S. to maintain international order. I'm not saying that I'm cold hearted in regards to the plight of the average Syrian, I'm simply saying that the world as a whole may need this more neutral stance by the United States

  3. Providing $60 million in non-lethal aid to the rebels is only going to prolong this conflict. Assad is not going to give in and will not be leaving power any time soon. Non-lethal aid will hardly help the rebels make any progress in overthrowing Assad and the regime. The rebels need lethal assistance, and without it this conflict is going to continue to drag on while the number of innocent casualties mount. Both Britain and France have made it clear that they want to start sending lethal aid, or defensive military aid at the least, in order to stop this massacre. Soon enough the aid the rebels have received for now will run out, and the U.S. will have to make a decision on whether they want to allow this war to drag on or if they want to provide the rebels with lethal aid which could help bring an end to this terrible conflict.

  4. I agree with the United States' decision to provide nonlethal aid to the Syrian rebels. The conflict has reached such a point that something must be done. It is impossible to ignore the mounting death toll and extreme violence taking place within the country. However, the fact that the rebel groups do not appear united in one voice or cause provides good reason that the U.S. is not willing to commit any sort of military aid (even though some have commented that this is what the rebels need to move forward with the conflict).

    With that being said, I do agree with previous comments that U.S. aid might prolong the conflict. And at this point, it seems even nonlethal aid is too little too late. The New York Times reported today that the Syrian refugee count has reached one million. Not only are the lives of innocent Syrian civilians affected due to the civil war, but the economies and infrastructure of neighboring countries are being affected as well. The Times reported that Lebanon's population has increased by 10% and Jordan is facing issues concerning water and energy shortages ( Will the U.S. now feel an obligation to provide humanitarian and economic aid to these countries as well?

    Further, with more actors becoming involved, I feel that the conflict will only get messier. As we learned from the Cunningham article this week, the greater the number the actors, the greater the chances in prolonging the conflict. This is bound to pose even greater problems since the U.S., Iran, and Russia, have their own grievances amongst one another and may have the potential to heighten the conflict even further.

    While I do believe it is impossible to ignore, I'm not sure that the support of international actors can help the situation at all. I believe that the rebels must form a cohesive group and message if any progress is to be made. Only then will the help of international actors break the stalemate.