Syria: The Next Libya?
By Matthew Vadum
The Obama administration has finally officially acknowledged that the Syrian government has used illegal chemical weapons in its bloody civil war half a year after reports first surfaced, which opens the door to U.S. involvement in the conflict.
After months of heel-dragging, the administration admits Syria crossed the much-vaunted “red line” President Obama laid down for U.S. action in that regime’s two year war against opposition forces. Obama said last summer that if Syria used chemical weapons such an action would be a “game-changer” for the United States. Despite reports that the Assad regime has done precisely that, Obama has been taking his sweet time making an official finding.
But yesterday Ben Rhodes, a young White House speechwriter who works as the White House’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said “the president has made his decision.”
Rhodes, for what it’s worth, may be responsible for concocting the official lies about last September’s deadly terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Rhodes said U.S. intelligence reports indicate Hezbollah-backed Syria has used sarin and various chemical weapons “on a small scale” against multiple rebel targets on at least four occasions over the past year. The death toll from such attacks could be 150 or higher, he said. The United Nations says 92,000 have died in the civil war so far.
“Suffice it to say that decision has been made about providing additional direct support to the [opposition Supreme Military Council] to strengthen their effectiveness,” Rhodes said. “This is more a situation where we’re just not going to be able to lay out an inventory of what exactly falls under the scope of that assistance other than to communicate that we have made that decision.”
Sending Americans troops to wade into the Middle Eastern conflict is off the table right now but administration officials say the U.S. will soon augment the “scope and scale” of its military aid to the largely jihadist opponents of Syria’s brutal president Bashar Assad.
The Obama administration says it hasn’t decided if the U.S. will support a proposed “no-fly” zone over Syria. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are both pressing for a no-fly zone.
It is suspected that the Syrian opposition will not last much longer absent external assistance. Earlier this month, in Syria the town of Qusair was taken by forces loyal to the Assad regime. Qusair is strategically important because it links the capital city of Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea on which ports and a Russian naval base are located.
As Charles Krauthammer noted, the capture of Qusair with the assistance of the pro-Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah frees up Assad’s resources, allowing him to “advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo.”
“For the rebels, it’s a devastating loss of territory, morale and their supply corridor to Lebanon,” Krauthammer writes. “No one knows if this reversal of fortune will be the last, but everyone knows that Assad now has the upper hand.”
Obama’s decision comes a month after Secretary of State John Kerry surreptitiously gave Egypt $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, rewarding that country’s Islamofascist dictatorship for its increasingly vicious assaults on foreign workers, religious minorities, and civil society.
Kerry authorized aid to the authoritarian anti-American regime despite finding in a May 9 memo that “we are not satisfied with the extent of Egypt’s progress and are pressing for a more inclusive democratic process and the strengthening of key democratic institutions.”
In order for the aid to flow U.S. law requires the secretary of state to certify that the Egyptian government “is supporting the transition to civilian government, including holding free and fair elections, implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law.”
This U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance to Egypt could easily find its way into the conflict in Syria, just as U.S. aid to anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya is no doubt now being used against American interests in the Arab world.
Khaled al-Qazzaz, a foreign affairs adviser to Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, said Egyptians are free to join the war in nearby Syria. Sunni Muslim clerics in Egypt are urging their followers to get involved in the armed struggle by helping anti-Assad rebels.
Al-Qazzaz said that “the right of travel or freedom of travel is open for all Egyptians.”
Egypt will not prosecute its citizens for fighting in Syria, he said. “We are no longer a center for rendition, or punishing Egyptians for what they do in other countries.”
Al-Qazzaz said he’s not worried at the prospect of greater involvement by foreign jihadists in Syria.
“We don’t consider them a threat,” al-Qazzaz said. “We have a controllable situation in Sinai … We do not have a situation of returning jihadists.”
These bland assurances, of course, are similar to what the Obama administration said as it armed jihadists in the effort to topple Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi. Despite hopes for a new secular liberal status quo in Libya, the Qaddafi regime was replaced by an Islamist government friendly to Islamic radicalism, which only continues to grow in the country. Like in Libya, America may find that our intervention on behalf of similar extremists in Syria will come with deadly consequences.