Many people are having doubts about the possibility of western countries embracing the option of arming the Syrian opposition. Those who are following developments in the Syrian crisis have not assigned much importance to the US announcement that a series of White House meetings would take place this week to conduct a study of a wide range of options.
These stances by the West and the US, especially France’s fear of a military campaign by the Syrian regime and Hezbollah against Aleppo and its countryside, are based on not disturbing the balance between the opposition and the regime after the fall of the city of Qussayr. Meanwhile, the doubts over a change in the western stance are based on the fact that over the last year, Syrians and the rest of the Arab world have heard hints about the possibility that the opposition will be supplied with special weapons, without these reports ever becoming a reality. Instead, Washington has retained its weapons embargo on the Syrian rebels, even over the last few weeks and during the battle of Qussayr, which lasted for more than three weeks, and after Hezbollah announced that its forces had been taking part in the battles inside Syria, for more than a month.
Every time the White House and European countries hint at a stance, they quickly back down, providing motivation for the regime to commit more massacres. This is what happened with regard to the use of chemical weapons, which President Barack Obama described as a red line and a game-changer. Then the game changed - to the benefit of the regime as it recovered areas that were being held by the rebels with light and medium weapons that they had obtained, either through the black market or smuggling from some western countries, or from government military bases that they had already occupied.
If western countries are hinting at a new policy, to prevent the fall of Aleppo, regime forces and Hezbollah could turn toward another region, such as rural Damascus or the governorate of Deraa, to focus on controlling it. This might relieve western countries of the task of translating their verbal threats into action, just as when the west threatened to take a stance vis-à-vis the use of chemical weapons; the regime resorted to using destructive Scud missiles and ugly massacres instead, during the first year of the war.
There is no new American policy on the crisis, except for maneuvers that either serve Obama's public image or help in his dueling with Republicans, of whom some leading figures have demanded a more effective policy, such as arming the opposition, or benefit the essential US policy that has been in place since the outset:
1-Allow the crisis to continue, as a form of attrition of the fighters inside Syria: the Sunni fundamentalists, as the Syrian war has attracted them from Arab and western countries; and Hezbollah, which has been lured to Syria for more than a year. The party announced its full involvement in this war after having becoming gradually embroiled in it, which proved to Washington that its bet on wearing down "Sunni and Shiite extremists" was a correct one. These two groups are the rivals in the struggle. Will Washington find anything better than seeing its two enemies battle in Syria? Finally, there is the attrition from which Iran is suffering; this country has been obliged to finance its military and political involvement in the Syrian crisis to the tune of millions of dollars a month, in defense of the regime.
2-Coordinate with Moscow on any stance, as long as direct military intervention – as in Libya – remains a remote possibility; this has been settled since the beginning, and enhanced by the Russian-Chinese veto in the Security Council against any resolution on Syria. Washington is determined to see the understanding with Moscow win out, which could keep the conflict going, without any clashes when accord becomes difficult. This is in keeping with America's international priorities, which require turning its attention to the Pacific and the Chinese sphere. In other words, any step that increases the possibility of discord between Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, will not be taken; the option of arming the Syrian opposition is subject to this principle.
3-The main "advisor" on the policy of the US toward Syria is Israel. Washington will do whatever serves the interest of its Israeli ally. It will not do anything that worries Israel's security concerns, and this is particularly true for arming the opposition. Washington has even prevented countries from sending weapons to the opposition, after Israel intervened on this point, on the pretext that these arms will fall into the hands of extremist rebels. The keenness to see Israel remain secure is a point of convergence between the US and Russia, from which Israel benefits to the utmost extent. The Russian reaction to three instances of Israel striking at the Damascus area, to supposedly halt qualitative weapons transfers to Hezbollah, has remained timid, and face-saving. Moscow reassured Tel Aviv that it will not send any shipments of S300 missiles to Syria.
Relations among the US, Russia, and Israel remained governed by the developments in the crisis, because of this convergence. Israel wants guarantees for its security from the Syrian regime, so as not to play a role in toppling it, if Washington links arming the opposition to the approval of Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, it wants guarantees from the opposition about its security if it wants to help in breaking the arms embargo on it from Washington; Israel also engages in political extortion against the opposition and pro-opposition Arab countries so that it can benefit from taking part in the toppling of the Syrian regime, as the Syrian people pay the price of this hellish game.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.