Although President Barack Obama insists that U.S. aid to the Syrian rebels is non-lethal and humanitarian, the CIA is helping Arab governments and Turkey buy and deliver arms to the Syrian opposition, according to The New York Times. Does his administration believe Americans can be easily lied to?
America's policy goals toward Syria are contradictory. The United States wants the rebels to succeed in overthrowing President Bashar Assad, but it realizes that the nature of the rebel movement poses serious problems to those who want to help it win.
First, it is highly disorganized. Moaz al-Khatib, president of the Syrian opposition coalition, quit Sunday in exasperation, but he has since reappeared. A second problem is the rebels are a collection of disparate elements -- some linked to al-Qaida, some extreme Islamist in character and some who could be considered terrorists.
Washington should have considered the likely nature of a successor government to Mr. Assad's if regime change were actually achieved in Damascus. Would it be a coherent government, an extreme Islamist regime or simply chaos? This needed to be raised in light of America's relationship with a new government and with reference to Syria's strategic position, with neighbors such as Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
These considerations had led until now to a prudent U.S. approach, in spite of the human suffering that has come with the warfare. The United States has responded to the humanitarian problems with aid, which was just increased during Mr. Obama's visit to Jordan by $200 million for the Syrian refugees sheltered there.
Now Americans have learned that the administration helped Arab states to buy arms in Croatia for the rebels and to organize the transport of those weapons through Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It may be only a matter of time before Syria strikes back at a tottering Jordanian monarchy in revenge for the part the United States helped Jordan play in Syria.
All in all, the U.S. government is taking a role in a civil war that it has not thought through or even explained to the American people. The public does not like to learn about a major contradiction in U.S. arms policy in the press. They should be told by a president who is supposed to be in charge.