West Changes Policy On Syria With Assistance From Gulf And Saudis Going To Salafists
The policy followed till now on the support extended by the United States, Britain and France to anti-Assad rebels has had a backlash on Western interests and there is now rethinking on their policy, according to Western reports.
Diplomatic and humanitarian support but no military assistance has been given by these Western nations to Syrian rebel groups in their year old revolt. But the Gulf States including Saudi Arabia have been sending in considerable arms assistance which have ended with extremist groups.
It has now been realised that these assistance has been reaching the extremist best organised and best funded groups such as the Salafists (Militant Muslim Fundamentalist) groups.
A report in Britain’s Guardian last week states that the possibility of sectarian civil war spreading across the region and evidence that the best rebel group, the Salafists are disproportionately funded has triggered an urgent policy change in Western capitals.
The Guardian report also states that these three Western nations now agree that efforts to encourage a unified opposition around the Syrian National Council (SNC) based outside Syria have failed and attempts should be made to cultivate more direct links with internal rebel Syrian groups.
Human rights and minority rights
Western reports speak of the concern of these countries to rights of minorities in Syria in the event of the emergence of these groups to power.
The high degree of intolerance of minorities associated with these hardline Islamist groups has given rise to the speculation of a widespread sectarian civil war.
Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, who was in Turkey the week before to boost US-Turkey military co-operation and intelligence sharing had also met Syrian Opposition activists and stressed the importance of human rights and rights of minorities.
The United States and Britain are once again using protection of human rights and rights of minorities as an instrument of foreign policy despite their poor record in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Protection of human rights and rights of minorities would be their bait for their assistance to overthrow the Assad regime.
On the other hand there would be little to chose from the dictatorship of Bashar Assad and a hard core fundamentalist Islamic regime unless they change their policies to be more liberal such as what Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt had done.
Last week another expert on the Middle East, Barnes Dacy warned at a European Council meeting that that if the West did not ‘get on board now’ they would lose the support for leverage with the Saudis and Quataris running loose’ with the groups they are supplying assistance.
The Western decision not to provide military assistance to rebels has obviously made the Free Syrian Army to look for other sources. The military balance is heavily in favour of the Assad regime.
Assad is Goliath
Although most reports in the Western media provide optimistic hopes for the Free Syrian Army fighting forces of the Bashar Assad regime the realities in terms of current manpower and armaments between the two opposing forces do not give much hope for the rebel forces.
A report by Peter Beaumont and Louisa Lovelock in Britain’s Guardian provides the numbers of the Assad regimes forces as against the Free Syrian army. At the commencement of the conflict in March last year Assad’s regime had 325,000 regular armed troops. 100,000 irregular armed troops as against 70,000 fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) While defections and casualties suffered in the one year and five months of fighting would have reduced Assad’s manpower considerably. Defence analysts still estimated that his forces are three times as large as the opposition.
Despite this overall strength Assad’s forces find it increasingly difficult to exploit its strengths as the fighting has shifted to the country’s largest cities.
Assad forces are hampered by maintaining serviceability of its attack helicopters which they have become increasingly reliant on in taking on the rebels. A military analyst has explained the battle as being Assad’s Armaments and Manpower Vs the strategy of the rebels.
Rebels want missiles
Assad’s main weapon of attack has been attack helicopters and fighter planes.
The rebels sorely need surface to air missiles if they are to last for long. Last week a Syrian fighter plane breaking out into flames in the air was captured on film and shown on international TV.
The rebels claimed that they brought it down but the Syrian Air Force said the plane crashed due to technical defects.
The decision of the United States not to supply arms to rebels may be for many reasons but now it is apparent that one decisive factor would have been that they did not want to arm the extremist Islamists.
Hillary Clinton in her talks with Turkey’s leaders spoke of ‘more direct action’ and did not rule out a no fly zone as proposed by Turkey nor did she commit herself. The US position has been that a no fly zone would lead to direct US involvement.
Perhaps the best way of making Assad’s regime collapse is by means of defection such as key Army officials, diplomats and politicians such as the prime minister who two weeks ago escaped to Jordon and joined the rebel forces. But even though there are predictions that Assad’s end is neigh he still has his loyalist groups around him. Assad is proving to be a much tougher cookie than Gaddafy.