Thursday, June 27, 2013

Joining the Battle

In a perfect world, I'd have hoped we'd be ready to ship weapons to Syrian rebels as soon as it became public knowledge. But at least the pipeline is opening up:

The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans.

The shipments, related training and a parallel push to mobilize arms deliveries from European and Arab allies are being timed to allow a concerted push by the rebels starting by early August, the diplomats and officials said, revealing details of a new covert plan authorized by President Barack Obama and disclosed earlier this month.

We're also working with the Saudis to get a small number of anti-aircraft missiles into the hands of a small number of trusted rebels.

In a perfect world, those "trusted rebels" would be Arab special forces troops.

By August, hopefully Hezbollah is burned out and incapable of offensive action; and those Iranian-organized pro-government militias are too skittish about casualties to poke their heads above the walls.

But infiltration of rebels who get some weapons training will take place slowly over many months starting in August. So the end of the year is a more reasonable time frame to see some results.

But unless the Assad forces collapse because their morale just can't take it any more, the rebels still won't have the power to mount a decisive offensive. These are rebels--not mechanized brigades.

And just how do we think we get a "concerted" push from the competing rebel organizations?

Or is this just an offensive in the south by the Jordanian-backed rebels?

But there is some better news--we did do some work prior to the president's announcement:

The CIA, in advance of Mr. Obama's decision to provide American arms, had already begun to store Soviet-era weapons, including ammunition for Kalashnikov rifles and armor-piercing antitank missiles. The first rebel units expected to receive arms and training by the U.S. already have military experience using Soviet-era weapons, reducing the need for more extensive training.

That's better. I don't expect a perfect world. But I do expect better than making an announcement that gets the hopes of rebels up only to dash them as help takes more time than they have to live under attack by Assad's firepower.

And to finally have a reasonable objective--defeating Assad's regime--is better than just hoping for the best.