With the Obama Administration announcing the US will start to arm the Syrian rebels directly, below is testimony from those, many of them experts, who oppose arming the rebels.
“Expressing his deep concern at the ever-deteriorating situation in Syria, and its growing regional impact, the Secretary-General called for stemming the supply of arms to any side in the Syrian conflict. More arms would only mean more deaths and destruction. He underlined the appalling humanitarian crisis in Syria, where a third of the population is now in need of urgent assistance, and he strongly reiterated his appeal for donor countries to fully support United Nations humanitarian efforts.” – UN report on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s meeting with Qatar’s Prime Minister, 22 April 2013 (http://www.un.org/sg/offthecuff/index.asp?nid=2793)
“Rather than secure humanitarian space and empower a political transition, Western military engagement in Syria is likely to provoke further escalation on all sides, deepening the civil war and strengthening the forces of extremism, sectarianism and criminality gaining strength across the country. The idea that the West can empower and remotely control moderate forces is optimistic at best. Escalation begets escalation and mission creep is a predictable outcome if the West sets out on a military path.” – Javier Solana has served as foreign minister of Spain, secretary general of NATO, and E.U. High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is a former secretary general of NATO and a former foreign minister of the Netherlands, 11 June 2013 (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/opinion/global/geneva-talks-hold-the-only-key-to-syria.html?_r=0)
“The British government's stance that led to the end of the EU’s arms embargo on Syria is based on flawed logic and will likely exacerbate and prolong the civil war… The threat of arming the rebels is unlikely to convince Assad to change his stance. Every time the rebels have made gains, the regime has been sent a vast supply of arms, financial support and even fighters from its key international allies Russia, Iran and Hezbollah… Arming the rebels is unlikely to strengthen the so-called moderates either. Jihadists such as Jubhat al-Nusra have succeeded not just because they are better armed, but because they are better organized, committed and have won popular support through distributing aid and eschewing the corruption that plagues FSA-affiliated militia. The FSA, which is more a collection of localized militia than a single organized unit, may benefit from weapons temporarily but the 'moderates' problems are far deeper than simply a lack of arms… Weapons could end up in the wrong hands. While [William] Hague insists recipients will be carefully vetted to ensure they are 'moderate', there is no guarantee they will not radicalize in the future. Moreover, with reports of jihadists clashing with moderates over oil resources and elsewhere, can Hague also guarantee that jihadists won’t simply steal the weapons from Britain’s allies? As Syria becomes a failed state and destabilizes its neighbours, might British and French-supplied anti-aircraft weapons soon be downing western passenger airliners across the region?… A further risk is that, irrespective of the impact on the regime, this move deters the opposition itself from negotiating.” – Dr Christopher Phillips, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House, 28 May 2013 (http://www.chathamhouse.org/media/comment/view/191703)
“Western arming of rebels is ill-advised given its likely limited impact on the ground, encouragement of escalation and maximalism, and the inability to guarantee in whose hands weapons will end up.” – Julien Barnes-Dacey, and Daniel Levy, European Council on Foreign Relations, 24 May 2013 (http://ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR80_SYRIA_BRIEF_AW.pdf)
"Arming rebel and opposition forces will have unforeseen long-term consequences for Syria and the region and will not assist in finding a non-military solution to this terrible situation." – Campaign Against Arms Trade, 29 May 2013 (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/133449)
“Sending arms is unlikely to provide a solution” – David Owen, former UK Foreign Secretary and former EU Co-Chair of the peace negotiations in the former Yugoslavia, 4 May 2013 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/03/syra-the-roadmap-to-peace)
“Syria is already awash in weapons that will be circulating in the area for years to come. Funneling more arms to the opposition would fuel their brutal battle tactics, intensify the war, and further diminish chances of a democratic outcome for Syria.” – Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organisation, 9 May 2013 (http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/10/how-not-to-end-the-war-in-syria/)
“Providing more weapons will mean prolonged fighting and more civilian deaths, more long-term damage to infrastructure and the economy, and greater poverty in Syria. Instead, the United States and international community should focus on increasing diplomatic outreach, demonstrating to all sides the imperative of reaching a political solution.” – Oxfam America, 1 May 2013 (http://www.oxfamamerica.org/press/pressreleases/oxfam-no-new-arms-race-in-the-middle-east)
“Allowing the EU arms embargo to end could have devastating consequences. There are no easy answers when trying to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but sending more arms and ammunition clearly isn't one of them. Transferring more weapons to Syria can only exacerbate a hellish scenario for civilians.” – Anna McDonald, Oxfam UK’s Head of Arms Control, 28 May 2013 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/28/uk-forced-eu-embargo-syria-rebel-arms)
“The evidence from Syria itself is that more weapons will simply mean more dead and wounded.” – Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the Independent, 23 May 2013 (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n11/patrick-cockburn/is-it-the-end-of-sykes-picot)
Ian Sinclair is a freelance writer based in London and the author of ‘The march that shook Blair: An oral history of 15 February 2003’ published by Peace News Press. [email protected] and https://twitter.com/IanJSinclair.