Civil wars are messy. Intervening in them can be even messier. As the Obama administration decides to get involved in another civil war, someone should probably inform the president that arms he’s sending to the Syrian rebels are ending up in the hands of pro-Assad militias. USA Today reported on July 10 that:
U.S. and Western weapons have been reaching Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting to keep Bashar Assad’s forces in power in Syria.
Analysts say it’s unclear if the weapons were captured, stolen or bought on the black market in Syria, Turkey, Iraq or Libya. Propaganda photographs from Shiite militias posted on dozens of websites and Facebook pages show the weapons were acquired in new condition, said Phillip Smyth, an analyst for Jihadology.net, a site affiliated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Many of the weapons are things the militias “shouldn’t really have their hands on,” Smyth said. Iranians love to show “they have weapons and systems that are very close to the Americans.”
The ability of Assad’s allies to obtain U.S. weapons is one of many reasons the United States should not supply Syrian rebels with weapons, which President Obama said he would start to do last month, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Then again, President Assad’s forces could’ve made arms deals in Iraq. Regardless, it’s just another reason why the U.S. should just let this thing play out – and not get involved.
Many of the U.S. weapons in the hands of pro-Assad militia could have reached the black market after a major U.S. sales to Iraq in 2009, said Christopher Harmer, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Almost 10 years of fighting there left thousands of loose weapons floating around Iraq and available for sale on the black market.
The U.S. sale included 80,000 M-16s, 25,000 M-4s and 2,550 M-203 grenade launchers, according to an announcement Dec. 9, 2009, by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
In all, I’m just hoping Obama receives this information from his senior staff in a timely fashion. Although, he’ll probably read all about it in the newspapers.