28 May 2013

Arms to Syrian Rebels? From Europe?

Perhaps showing they learned the lessons of Bosnia 20 years too late, the EU is set to end the arms embargo on Syria rebels that will allow them to arm up and fight back.

European Union foreign ministers have said they will not renew an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, due to expire on Saturday.

But there was no immediate decision to send arms to Syrian rebels and all other sanctions remained in force.

Even so, Russia said it would "directly harm" the prospects of an international peace conference on Syria.

Meanwhile, the BBC has heard evidence that 200 people were killed in a massacre in western Syria this month.

Opposition activists said they had documented the civilian deaths in al-Bayda and Baniyas after government troops and militias entered the towns.

The Beeb continues with some detailed analysis in the sidebar.

While the lifting of the EU arms embargo is theoretically good news for the fractious Syrian opposition, it is clearly going to be some time before it has any effect on the battlefield.

Its authors, especially Britain, hope the decision itself will send a strong enough signal to President Bashar al-Assad that it is time to hand over power. That is extremely unlikely. For a government that has shown every sign of determination to fight to the end, it is hard facts on the ground that count.

Government forces have recently been making significant gains. To reverse that trend will take time and sacrifice by the rebels - and the kind of quality weapons they have so far been denied, especially armour-piercing and anti-aircraft projectiles.

The Americans in particular insist that much-needed shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles must not be given, lest they end up with extremists. But for the rebels at least the eventual possibility of carefully-controlled arms deliveries is there, in what looks like being a bloody, long-haul struggle.

Now, there's absolutely -zero- doubt in this guy's mind that there's going to be at least one anti-aircraft missile that will be provided to the Syrian rebels that will be used somewhere else. Will it be a Kurdish shootdown of a Turkish airliner? Make its way to Africa somewhere? Used by Sunnis to plink an airliner out of Baghdad's sky? Who knows. But some Syrian dude somewhere will sell it on the black market for a harem girl and some terrorist somewhere will get it.

By: Brant

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