Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Time May Be Running Out in Syria

The Washington Post reports:

Syrian rebels battling the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad are running out of ammunition as black market supplies dry up, neighboring countries tighten their borders and international promises of help fail to materialize, according to rebel commanders and defected soldiers who have crossed into this Turkish border town in recent days in a quest for money to buy arms.

They describe what appear to be desperate conditions for the already lightly armed and loosely organized rebel force, made up of defected soldiers and civilians who in recent months have banded together in the name of the Free Syrian Army, transforming what had been an overwhelmingly peaceful uprising into an armed revolt.

This news, if true, is a tragedy and a disgrace. The Free Syrian Army is, at this point, the best chance to force Basher Assad and his criminal regime from power–if only by putting enough pressure on him to lead to a negotiated transition. Yet the Syrian army is on the offensive and, having taken Homs with great brutality, now has the rebels on the run–and the rebels can’t even find enough bullets with which to defend themselves.

It did not have to be this way. This is a direct result of the Obama administration’s failure to engage actively in favor of a revolt that could tip the balance of power in the Levant in favor of the West and against Iran and its allies. All sorts of arguments have been made as to why we should not arm the rebels. All need to be taken account, but none is particularly persuasive in light of the likely fact that, unless we do more to arm the rebels, Assad will remain in power and will remain more dependent than ever on Iranian support. This would be both a humanitarian and a strategic tragedy, hurting not only the people of Syria but American interests in the region. It is still not too late for the administration to act in concert with our allies. But time may be running out.