Foreign Policy Blogs

U.S. Senate Approves Guns to Syria: ‘Designated Terrorists’ Still on OFAC List

Rebel fighters from the Al-Ezz bin Abdul Salam Brigade Miguel Medina-AFP-Getty

Rebel fighters from the Al-Ezz bin Abdul Salam Brigade Miguel Medina-AFP-Getty

That’s right. With a preponderance of yeas and only three nays, your representatives in the U.S. Senate have approved a bill that gives the president unilateral authority to continue sending hundreds of millions of US greenbacks to the Syrian rebels (approaching the 750 million mark), and to start channeling some of the most powerful weaponry in the world to the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The fact that the end users, the Free Syrian Army, to whom these weapons will be sent, is closely affiliated with individuals and organizations still listed on the Department of Treasury’s “SDN” List, people and groups the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) has banned as importers or recipients of U.S. goods (especially weapons), doesn’t seem to bother the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Perhaps the committee is confused? Unaware that a transfer of weapons from the U.S., directly or through an intermediate buyer, to any organization or individual listed on OFAC’s list would constitute an illegal arms sale? Senate Votes Lethal Aid to Syria

Pay attention:

AL-ZAWAHIRI, Ayman (a.k.a. AL ZAWAHIRI, Dr. Ayman; a.k.a. AL-
ZAWAHIRI, Aiman Muhammad Rabi; a.k.a. SALIM, Ahmad Fuad); DOB 19
Jun 1951; POB Giza, Egypt; Passport 1084010 (Egypt); alt. Passport
19820215; Operational and Military Leader of JIHAD GROUP
(individual) [SDGT] [SDT].

Committee staffers can find this information on Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor, on the Treasury Department’s “SDN” List, ALPHABETICAL LISTING OF SPECIALLY DESIGNATED NATIONALS AND BLOCKED PERSONS (“SDN List”). The list, which is published by Treasury’s Office of Asset Control (OFAC) is meant to be a reference tool for U.S. exporters and importers: “specially designated nationals,” like al-Zawahiri, are “blocked,” which, in case you weren’t listening the first time, means U.S. manufacturers cannot export products to him (or his jihadist followers) nor can a U.S. national receive anything from al-Zawahiri.

The SDN List contains another name as well:

AL-BAGHDADI, Abu Bakr al-Husayni (a.k.a. AL-BADRI, Dr. Ibrahim
‘Awwad Ibrahim ‘Ali; a.k.a. AL-QURAISHI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-
Husayni; a.k.a. AL-QURASHI, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini;
a.k.a. AL-SAMARRA’I, Dr. Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim; a.k.a. AL-
SAMARRA’I, Ibrahim ‘Awad Ibrahim al-Badri; a.k.a. AL-SAMARRA’I,
Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim; a.k.a. “ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI”; a.k.a. “ABU
DU’A”; a.k.a. “DR. IBRAHIM”), Iraq; DOB 1971; POB Samarra’i, Iraq
(individual) [SDGT].

Not a household name? Let me fill you in. This is from Jim Muir, a BBC reporter,

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State in Iraq, which is the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda, had said that his group would be joining with al-Nusra under the name The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Stay with me.

Al-Nusra is part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). What makes al Nusra problematic, however, is that it’s an extremist brigade affiliated with al Qaeda-Iraq, fighting under SMC’s operational umbrella. Brigadier General Salim Idris, a “moderate,” and a defector from Assad’s army, is the only thing standing between the cache of deadly U.S. weapons his rebel forces want and the anti-American jihadists fighting for al-Nusra and similar extremist fronts within the ranks of the FSA. McCain and Kerry are asking us to trust Idris to keep U.S. weaponry out of the hands of al Qaeda. In other words, our government is trusting Idris with our lives.

It’s a difficult thing to do, especially when OFAC’s SDN List pops up on your computer screen and the names of al-Zawahiri and al-Husayni jump out as “blocked end users.” They’re blocked because the U.S. has named both of these guys as terrorists.

Another too small comfort. We keep hearing that extremist brigades account for only a small part of FSA units, maybe 10 percent, and the Senate Bill, believe it or not, mandates that U.S. weapons go “only to moderates” within the FSA, with “strict controls” imposed by U.S. officials and “regular oversight reporting” to Congress.

The U.S. government has already demonstrated its inability to impose “strict controls” on the transfer of weapons from ATF to Mexico, and Congressional oversight of DHS, the IRS and NSA seems sketchy at best.

What are the chances al-Nusra’s foot soldiers, and the other jihadist combatants Idris hopes to control–the most effective fighters within the Free Syrian Army — are going to be reporting back to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe that, once U.S. arms are within their grasp, fighters for al-Nusra and other radical units won’t simply take what they want?

Note to Senate Foreign Relations Committee

The dozen or so jihadist units in the FSA are tied to a significant number of names and organizations on Treasury’s OFAC list — not just al-Zawahiri and al-Husayni. Before the U.S. approves arms transfers to the Syrian Opposition, it might be wise to remove these names — a simple pencil and eraser adjustment — which might prevent the U.S. Senate and the administration from tripping over its own best intentions. If you want to check those names against OFAC’s SDN list, check out pp 36-45 of Elizabeth O’Bagy’s “Middle East Security Report 9: The Free Syrian Army.”

SMC: Cutout for Jihadists?

Fact: The SMC is a western/U.S. construct, a rebel “front-company” of sorts, led by General Salim Idris, a U.S. straw man supposedly “in charge” of Syrian opposition fighters in whose ranks figure an array of radical jihadist brigades of the same ilk and origin as the Sunni terrorists who killed more than 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.

A big claim — tell me I’m wrong.

Why would the U.S. government take a gamble of this magnitude?

How many reasons (none of them good) do you need?

Let’s start with Senator John McCain and the ever-enthusiastic lobbying efforts of our new Secretary of State, John Kerry — an advocate for everything from heading off catastrophic climate change (a speech to the Chinese a few days a go) to luring (yes, that’s the logic) Assad and his Russian backers to a negotiating table in Geneva by loading FSA’s armories with anti-missile and anti-tank systems purchased (we assume) from U.S. defense contractors by FSA supporters like Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the UAE.

Let’s call them The Money.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Well, not to John McCain or John Kerry, or to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on fire to ramp up the U.S. defense industry, hard-hit by sequestration.

Here’s their argument.

Yes, “our side” — the Free Syrian Army (FSA), fighters the U.S. is counting on to depose Assad — does in fact contain America’s enemies within its ranks, Sunni extremists openly affiliated with al-Qaeda Iraq and other foreign terrorist organizations.

And yes, again, it is these “once-our-enemy, now our friend” brigades, salafists, global jihadists, who are, by a strange twist of fate, the last best hope for anti-government sympathizers, because these ideologically-incompatible troops are leading the assault, battering Assad’s government forces, and by dint of their purer will and total devotion to the Islamic cause.

And because, until now, weapons, technology and other support has been provided via “private sourcing” (think extremist groups from Saudi, Qatar, and global al Qaeda operatives) to “the most effective and fiercest fighting units,” including al Nusra, al Qaeda’s A-team, it has been the jihadists within the FSA — not the moderates like Idris and his secular, nationalistic brigades — which benefited from this battlefield meritocracy and captured the biggest, baddest firepower.

For the U.S., the FSA is a mixed bag — you might want to reference the U.S.-Soviet alliance during World War II, after Hitler double-crossed Joe Stalin, and Allied governments welcomed even the strangest of bedfellows into the fray, as long as we were all aiming at the same target.

Patton, you may recall, was chastised for suggesting that it might be a mistake for the western allies to stop marching once they reached Berlin.

But we won, didn’t we?

No? Speak up…Stalin? The gulags? Collectivization? The Cold War? The nuclear arms race? The totalitarian suppression of eastern Europe? Vietnam? Cuba? Latin America? Half a century, trillions of dollars, 20 million killed in the Soviet Union and more than 100 million sacrificed to communism worldwide?

Hey, life isn’t perfect, and now, in Syria, it seems the United States is willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with extremist factions waiting for their chance to turn the guns we give them against us, because our government is willing to suspend it’s disbelief if Idris tells us it’s ok.

While we may have formed an ad hoc relationship with extremist fighting units who undoubtedly believe the U.S. and Israel deserve the same treatment they’re currently doling out to Assad, the plan, say McCain and Kerry, is to strengthen the control and coordination of Idris’ Supreme Military Council (SMC) by giving these “moderates” the sole authority to decide which fighting units within the FSA get the hotshot weaponry and state-of-the-art technology the U.S. plans to send to Syria.

If we don’t send weapons, the argument goes, anti-American terrorist units within the FSA will still get the best stuff because they’ve proven their worth and effectiveness to larger, private supporters whose ideological (and also anti-American) agenda reaches far beyond a simple coup d’etat in Syria.

According to McCain/Kerry, putting supply and distribution of the weaponry these extremist units so desperately want from the U.S. into the hands of General Idris and his “moderate” Supreme Military Council (SMC) will actually weaken the control jihadist groups now wield within the FSA and put the big stick back into the hands of the U.S. State Department and its “friendly” military overseers within the Syrian opposition.

Counter-argument: As it stands now, power within the FSA flows from the bottom-up — this from Elizabeth O’Bagy, McCain advisor on Syria and analyst with the Institute for Understanding War in Washington, DC.

The majority of rebels still identify with individual leaders, rather than with unit names or military councils. Personal networks remain the key determinant in alliances and loyalties. . .thus, the SMC has relied on the personal reputation of individual commanders for legitimacy that has derived from the bottom-up, rather than top down. The SMC has no institutional legitimacy that is separate from the legitimacy of the commanders associated with the command.

O’Bagy, who ultimately claims that arms to the SMC constitute the only hope of establishing that organization’s authority over internal FSA units — and of subsequently deposing Assad’s regime — offers us qualified optimism that Syria’s Supreme Military Council might, just might, if all goes according to State Department planning, be able to wrest control and command from its factious ranks, but she is also careful, as a scrupulous academic, to admit that “Providing greater support to the SMC does entail the risk of unintended consequences. Some of this support may flow to the more radical forces.”

Yes, There Is That

O’Bagy also warns that infighting among rebel groups, between “competing views on the Syrian state versus an Islamic caliphate as well as participation in political processes” benefit Assad’s strategy.

President Assad is likely counting on collapsing the attempts at a unified rebel strategy through the brutality of its forces and the cost of battle. Once that happens, he likely expects rebel ranks to fragment and more radical elements, like Jabhat Nusra, to come to the fore. At that point, he would be in a position to market himself as the sole guarantor against terrorism and chaos. . . .

Imagine.

The fact is that the bottom-up power flow extremist brigades enjoy (remember that private funding) will not be easily relinquished. It offers hard line Islamist units precisely the purchase they would need to hijack the kind of “victory for democracy” moderate opposition leaders within the Syrian Opposition and the U.S. envision as an endgame.

In other words, radical brigades within the FSA would have the means (U.S. weapons), the motive (jihad), and the opportunity (bottom-up control) to upset any win in Syria by U.S. proxy forces.

Now, I’m thinking that if I were a radical Islamist swimming free in that big, unguarded pool called the SMC, my instinct would be to maintain whatever advantages I’d already gained — support from private, ideologically simpatico supporters, backup from ad hoc alliances with more moderate FSA units, and the desperate hope on the part of the U.S. and its allies that I can be persuaded to “play well with others” — and promise whatever I must to get my hands on the U.S. technology and weapons systems McCain and Kerry are willing to send to “win” the cooperation of the extremists within the FSA.

And then — remember the story about the scorpion riding on the back of the tortoise? I’d act in accordance with my own inner jihadist principles.

The Most Dangerous Game

This is it.

And even Barack Obama knows it.

He knows, as do you and I, that there are no guarantees our representatives within the Syrian Opposition, the folks who say they want to replace Assad with a secular, democratic government, have the will, the skill and the regional support they need to maintain control of the weapons the U.S. Senate has given the president unilateral approval to send.

Even with second-rate equipment, and under the most dire conditions, the jihadist units within the Syrian Free Army (FSA), with multiple lifelines to global jihadist organizations and an indefatigable sense of mission, have proven themselves a superior force, not only against Assad, but in comparison to the moderate secular fighting units loyal to Idris and inline with U.S. aims.

Fighters who seek martyrdom are hard to beat. They fight for Allah.

Why is the U.S. lining up against Assad?

Because he’s a brutal, homicidal dictator who doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone, or any group, that opposes him? Sure.

But that’s not all. There’s more than a concern for human rights driving the U.S. desire to intervene with lethal aid, no-fly zones, and maybe, even boots on the ground.

Call it McCain’s Cold War dream:

The U.S. still has “moderate, secular friends” in Syria (the cobbled-together Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, the work of D.C. lobbyists and western P.R. advisors) as well as dollar-loving “friendlies” all over the Levant — Sunnis ready to topple Shi’a rule in Syria (seizing its resources, securing the chemical weapons no one found in Baghdad, and creating a new arms market). The next step is Iran, where, with Israel’s support, the nukes, as well as the oil, once more belong to Sunni “moderates” and their western allies.

We can and should kick Russia’s butt out of the Middle East and have-do with communism once and for all. Russia remains the “real threat,” (that “No Country for Old Men” grind toward world domination that McCain knows so well) — not Sunni radicalism/terrorism, a fact temporarily obscured by the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., Benghazi, the Woolwich attack, and revelations by the NSA that its ever-broadening and “secret” surveillance abilities are clearly justified by the more than 50 terrorist attacks against U.S., targets No Such Agency has already headed off (no evidence of this available, however — it’s classified).

U.S. defense contractors stand ready and willing to bring Idris and his fellow lovers of democracy in the Supreme Military Council (SMC) up to warp-speed with the latest and greatest anti-aircraft and anti-tank equipment, and Lord knows, after Obama’s budget cuts, our defense industry needs the work.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE have billions to spend in support of their Sunni brothers, and if the U.S. doesn’t help them, someone else (China) will. And the U.S. still has what it takes to maintain a vital geo-strategic position in the Middle East (more than midway to Russia) and shore up our pals in the Gulf (some of whom we even know from prep school), who themselves still have what’s required, once the turmoil is over, to quell dissent among their teeming (and now, fully armed) masses yearning, it seems, to return to the thirteenth century.

So that’s the U.S. pitch, a thumbs-up from Uncle Sam and our weapons-manufacturing and oil dependent cousins in the EU.

Wishful Thinking

The reality is this. McCain, Kerry and other U.S. advocates for arming the Syrian opposition voice a concern, ingenuous at best, that we cannot allow the violence that has already resulted in the deaths of almost 100 thousand people ‘spill over’ the borders of neighboring countries — Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudia Arabia and Iraq — and engulf the Middle East.

But it’s already happened — look around.

The Syrian debacle is just one piece of a regional, sectarian conflict between two rival Muslim sects, Sunnis (the majority in the Middle East, supported by the House of Saud and the United States) and the Shi’a Muslims (who currently rule, under Assad, in Syria, and hold majority rule in Iran).

This is not simply a civil war, says Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group.

This is a transregional war, and borders are simply gateways that fighters go through to get to Syria.

Malley, the Group’s Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa, tells his NPR interviewer that while Kerry views intervention as a trigger for peace negotiations,

It’s too late…we’re seeing a confluence of conflicts…with Syria becoming the main arena for the jihadist fight.

Bulls eye. The ranks of the Free Syrian Army, our dogs in this fight, are rift with foreign fighters, including battle-hardened salafists and extremists from Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan and Turkey, whose aim is not to establish a secular democracy in Syria but an Islamic caliphate across the region.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a loose coalition of factions, each with separate and competing agendas, walking temporarily in lockstep to achieve the initial phase of a process whose final, and as each actor sees it, disparate aim, is guaranteed to make these factions turn on one another. The result? A civil war, an internecine slaughter in Syria whose victims are sure to be that country’s Shi’a population, along with its Christians, Alawites, Druze and Kurds.

Jihadist brigades, Sunni extremists, in the Syrian Free Army have already been reprimanded for turning their attention, on certain occasions, toward the elimination of Syria’s Kurds and away from the assault on the Assad government.

Global jihadists are riding the wave in Syria, parasites on a body of anti-government demonstrations originally inspired by democratic and nationalist sympathies, and their current play to obtain state-of-the-art weaponry from the United States reflects a subtle understanding of what the U.S. needs to believe before it can be persuaded to deliver on the jihadist dream.

Jabhat al Nusra and its companion battalions, jihadist and anti-western all, understand the downside of being linked to al Qaeda.

They understand the humanitarian impulses and the guilt that plagues western nations as casualties in Syria mount and intervention is delayed. They understand what’s to be gained by paying homage to negotiation, to talking, to diplomacy, and the value of lending lip service to a hierarchy (the SMC) which they know is weak enough to ignore when the time comes, but sufficiently useful to function as a channel for U.S. arms shipments.

Which brings us back to John Kerry and his pitch to the U.S. press and the public about the way to peace negotiations in Geneva is through U.S. arms shipments to the FSA. This may be one of the cruelest misrepresentations to emerge during the Syrian debacle.

It’s not Russia, which has already indicated its willingness to meet in Geneva, but the FSA, “our side,” that’s balked at the mention of peace or negotiations in Geneva. Russia is willing to play.

The FSA is not. Why?

Jihadists Don’t Negotiate

Hardline Islamists within the FSA don’t want agreement or a peaceful settlement of differences inside Syria. They want total capitulation from the Shi’a leadership within Syria and the unmitigated, undemocratic imposition of strict Islamic rule. And it is difficult to believe that John Kerry, even as new as he is in his job, could be so uninformed, so naïve, or so duplicitous to deny that real danger attends his drive to arm the rebel opposition.

The U.S. State Department has a big, ugly dog in this fight: It is determined to maintain and enhance U.S. influence in Syria and across the Middle East, and the only way to do that right now is to cast in its lot with the Sunni campaign, and to make room for Islamic extremists whose fundamentalist passions were unleashed in the ’60s and ’70s by none other than the Royal House of Saud and the United States, actors who provided funding, training and firepower to the anti-communist Muslim fighters later known as al Qaeda.

It was Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and the CIA who created bin Laden to help us oust the Russians from Afghanistan, and now it is Saudi Arabia, the pro-western Gulf monarchs, and the U.S. who continue to grapple with an enemy of our own making, who continue the struggle not just to contain it, but to use the Sunni call to holy war to maintain our own commercial and security interests across the Middle East.

The question, as always, is “At what cost?”

Right now, Sunni and Shi’a forces are battling it out across the Middle East: Hezbollah is attacking Sunni opposition forces in Syria from its base in Lebanon. Israel is firing rockets at Hezbollah (which supports Palestine) as its members attempt to infiltrate Syria to fight Sunni jihadists there.

Foreign salafist forces (Sunni extremists) are racing back and force across the Turkish border to battle Assad’s government forces, and in places where the FSA has established superiority and where it rules (Aleppo, for example—see Ben Hubbard’s NYT piece, April 28), sharia institutions are materializing and laying claim to every facet of daily life.

Sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’a is on again in Iraq and in Lebanon.

We have reports that Assad’s forces have killed roughly 100 people (what percent is that of 100k?) with Sarin gas, a violation of something Obama was foolish enough to tag his “red line” for intervention.

Russia is supplying weapons to Assad’s forces via Iran, which I am told is probably using Afghan heroin money to pay for them — and it is likely that the provision of more weapons to the FSA from the U.S. would be matched, gun for gun, by Russian/Iranian resupply.

But Here’s the Bad News

Nowhere in Syria, no matter which flag is flying, do we see an outbreak of democratic rule, or the emergence of secular, nationalistic institutions that pay open homage to individual rights, free elections, and the rule of law.

In the last six months, I have heard only one radio interview featuring a Syrian woman who told NPR she believed that what most Syrians wanted was “an end to the violence, Assad’s departure, and a fair election to choose a new leader.”

Jihadists, like the autocratic dictators they insist must be replaced, aren’t generally in favor of choice.

Consider the irony: At the same time that the U.S. is using drones to target and kill Sunni jihadists in northwest Pakistan, the U.S. Senate is voting to send some of the most powerful weaponry in the world to Sunni combatants, jihadists included, in Syria.

Explanation?

Listen Up

The U.S., a bastion of religious freedom, is up to its neck in bloody religious strife across the Middle East, and we have taken the Sunni side, not because we believe one Muslim sect is superior to the other, but because our political allies, the “moderate Gulf leaders” we’ve supported since World War II are Sunnis.

Unfortunately, these same “moderate, pro-US leaders” are today engaged in a power struggle with their own Sunni clerics, religious power mongers no longer content to take orders from the ruling elite or to pass orders down from government top dogs to the Islamic street.

Syria, like the Middle East in general, is no longer about political power — it’s about cultural revolution.

If the U.S. sends weapons to the FSA, they’re not likely to end up protecting the status quo or maintaining Cold War paradigms.

Those guns will belong to men willing to fight to the death to eradicate any ties with the west, any vestige of post-colonial relationships with the U.S. or European nations who have spent the last half-century trying to persuade the “true followers of the Prophet” to accommodate themselves to an alien, and as they see it through the prism of sharia law, evil culture.

Let me repeat myself: It was the U.S., in league with the House of Saud and our westernized Gulf allies, who encouraged and funded the radicalization of Sunnis across the Middle East for political purposes (“killing commies”), and now these same “holy warriors” are turning their guns on us. How soon doth Foggy Bottom forget…

What to do?

If you’re an “Argo” fan (if you haven’t seen the film, go to Netflix right now), you may remember Ben Affleck as CIA Agent Tony Mendez telling the Secretary of State that, in regard to the rescue of six Americans who escaped the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and were at that time hiding out in the Canadian Embassy, “there are no good options…just better bad ones.”

Hold on to that thought.

Let’s say we go with the McCain/Kerry plan to arm the FSA and hang on to a Tinkerbell kind of faith that, first, the made-in-the-USA fabrication called the Supreme Military Council (SMC), under the leadership of men like Salim Idris, and with the support of the CIA, can indeed rein in the actions and aspirations of the “fiercest, most effective” jihadist brigades, fighters with their own agenda, and, second, that the SMC can reconcile these Sunni radicals to ends other than the establishment of a conservative Islamic state ruled by a shura council — in other words, we can persuade them to trade in their jihadist vision for the construction of a secular, democratic nation called Syria.

Do I hear clapping? No?

Okay. But tell it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the White House.

Tell them that their Plan A is high, high-risk, not an adjective you often see sticking on the walls at 1600 Penn, and that McCain/Kerry comes with a deep, steep downside: failure, the need for deeper U.S. involvement, especially militarily (McCain’s already added a no-fly-zone to his wish-list), or a reversal in which extremists within the FSA used U.S.-supplied arms to attack U.S. citizens, or to facilitate blood feuds and sectarian killings in Syria after an opposition victory, could translate into a disaster for Obama’s presidential legacy, an unwanted and unsupportable challenge/mission for DOD, and more tragedy for the American and/or the Syrian people.

Plan B: We could stay where we are, already less bad — with non-lethal humanitarian aid to Syria, and the CIA dithering around in the background somewhere trying to sort out who gets which “100 percent made-in-the-former-Yugoslavia” weapons.

We could cut out the middlemen (as the U.S. has tried to do in proposed negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, much to Karzai’s chagrin — do you think he thinks we think Kabul may not be able to hold the fort once U.S. troops pull out next year?) and try to cut a deal on Syria directly with the Russians, who, as brutal as their tactics may be, still understand quid pro quo and the basic dance steps involved in strategic power brokering. You have to give a little, get a little, let your poor heart break a little…

You’re right.

The Gulf states wouldn’t like it — their dogs may have slipped their collars, but the continuous feedback loop between Sunni king and Sunni cleric remains intact, and the House of Saud knows what could happen if the music ever stops.

Israel’s with Saudi Arabia on Syria and Iran as well, which means another ally miffed at U.S. indecision and expected to carry too much of its own water (U.S. intervention against the Shi’a would lighten Israel’s burden regarding Palestine).

Russia would remain the guardian of Syria’s chemical weapons, and perhaps of Iran’s nukes. But ask yourself this question: Who’s more likely to move faster and more furiously against Islamic terrorists intent on seizing chemical weapons and armed warheads, transforming themselves, so to speak, into Masters of the Universe–the U.S. or the Russians? Please.

And of course, there’s those big, big, big U.S. weapons contracts, no longer sure things, with China coming up fast on a new inside track. But Obama’s presidential legacy would be safe(r), the American people and the airline industry would have fewer Islamic extremists with world-class anti-aircraft missile systems to worry about, and a lot of U.S. Treasury Department employees would be spared the necessity of combing through the OFAC list for names the White House must remove (more bad press) if it really intends to send weapons to the Syrian opposition.

So what’s the takeaway for the ten minutes you’ve invested in this blog?

Second thoughts about anyone’s ability to ensure U.S. weapons go only to “the moderates” within the Free Syrian Army? Read Ben Hubbard’s report in the New York Times:

Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.

Questions about why the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would approve a bill to supply lethal aid to organizations and individuals whose names still linger on OFAC’s SDN list under “blocked”?

An uneasy feeling that U.S. defense contracts for the items FSA units (including al-Nusra and other Islamist and Salafist Brigades) included on the “shopping list” Idris handed John Kerry are already rumbling through the pipeline?

A suspicion that Salim Idris and his colleagues in charge of the Supreme Military Council may have homes and bank accounts abroad, and maybe even some Plan Bs of their own?

Confusion about why Republicans are carrying water for a “lethal support” bill the President will not come out and openly back himself?

Trepidation about giving powerful anti-aircraft systems and technology to an organization, the SMC, tasked with keeping the weaponry away from radical Islamists who’s best-known modus operandi involves taking down aircraft?

Well, it’s a lot to think about, and we can only hope, I guess, that someone on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gets the time to do that.

As for me, I’m easy. Tell me a prohibition on arms to Syrian rebels might mean the new World Trade Center will stand upright a little longer than it otherwise might, and I’m sold.

 

Author

Kathleen Millar
Kathleen Millar

Kathleen Millar began her career in public affairs working for Lyn Nofziger, White House Communications Director. She has gone on to write about a wide range of enforcement and security issues for DHS, for the US Department of the Treasury (Customs & Border Patrol), for Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), then a Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and for top law enforcement officials in the United States and abroad.

A Founding Member of the Department of Homeland Security, Millar was also the deputy spokesperson-senior writer for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria. She has authored numerous speeches, articles and opeds under her own and client bylines, and her work, focusing on trafficking, terrorism, border and national security, has appeared in both national and international outlets, including The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Financial Times, and Vital Speeches of the Day.

Kathleen Millar holds an MA from Georgetown University and was the recipient of a United Nations Fellowship, International Affairs, Oxford. She is a member of the Georgetown University Alumni Association, Women in International Security (GU), the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and the American News Women’s Club in Washington, DC. Kathleen Millar is currently teaching and writing about efforts to combat transnational organized crime.

americasdiplomats_socialmediaasset