U.S. Training Syrian Rebels a Step in the Wrong Direction

According to German news magazine, Der Spiegel, the West is beginning to train Syrian rebels in Jordan, with Americans taking the leads as participants and organizers. According to Der Spiegel, as of now it is unclear whether the individuals present there are part of the army or hired by private firms, but some wore military uniforms.

At first, the conflict in Syria seemed to have a “pro-Democracy” edge to it, and it seemed that ideology was the driving force behind the unrest. Now, however, as the conflict has transformed into a sectarian civil war, the U.S., and all other western forces, should limit their involvement in the region. Tangling ourselves into a nation’s civil war will not be beneficial to us nor to them, seeing that the differences are catalyzed by historical issues that the U.S. is unlikely to fully grasp. Because of this, training the rebels is certainly a step in the wrong direction.

According to Jordanian security sources, the training effort is led by the U.S., but British and French instructors, together with Jordanian forces are also involved in training Syrian rebels on the use of anti-tank weaponry. The alleged goal is to build around a dozen units that will total to around 10,000 fighters.

As of now, 200 men have already received training and the plan in the future is for a “free Syrian army” to receive the same training in two camps — one in the South and one in the East of the country.

The U.S., Britain and France have all declined to comment. However, their involvement has been present in the region for some time now. The U.S, as of yet, has said that it would provide medical supplies and food directly to the rebel fighters, but has decided against sending arms. The main fear there is that the arms may find their way to the radical Islamists.

Britain has also decided to provide non-lethal military aid to the opposition fighters, although the decision was met with criticism from a Syrian envoy who believes that Western involvement is hindering efforts for peace in the warring country.

Jordan’s involvement here is more strategic: According to an organizer who spoke to Der Spiegel, "The Jordanian intelligence services want to prevent Salafists (radical Islamists) crossing from their own country into Syria and then returning later to stir up trouble in Jordan itself.”

While Jordan, with the help of the Western states, is supporting the Syrian rebels, who are mainly comprised of a Sunni Muslim majority, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also been accused of arming the rebels.

On the other hand, Russia, Iran and Lebanon have been widely believed to be supporting Assad’s regime, which is comprised of Shias and Alawites.

With conflicting involvement pouring in from all sides into Syria, it is nearly impossible to find a way to stop the civil war. While it is difficult to sit back and watch thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians die, it also must be realized that providing aid in the terms of lethal and non-lethal weapons and training soldiers is not going to put an end to the violence or stop more innocent deaths from occurring. In fact, it may just lead to more devastation.

A more pro-active solution must be taken — one that involves more talks and fewer weapons. Moreover, security must be provided to both sides — the Sunni majority and the Shia minority — in order for any semblance of stability to be long-term.  

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Areej Elahi-Siddiqui

A Pakistani-American undergraduate student at the Seton Hall's School of Diplomacy and International Relations. She enjoys watching inordinate amounts of television, reading far too many books and drinking lots and lots of coffee.

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