Clinton on Arming Syria’s Opposition Fighters

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a very interesting exchange with Wyatt Andrews of CBS News yesterday. In it, Clinton suggested the opposition fighters in Syria are not a cohesive enough group to justify sending arms and that U.S. intervention on behalf of the opposition has the potential to indirectly aid al-Qaeda or Hamas. I’ve written about these issues here, here, and here. Here are some excerpts:

QUESTION: The Administration made a point this week of suggesting that if Assad does not step down, does not stop the violence, that the U.S. would consider additional measures. Talk to me. What are the additional measures?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to go into that, Wyatt. I think we did signal that this kind of wanton violence is just unacceptable. There are countries that are much closer with a much greater stake in the neighborhood who are looking at what they might do. Obviously, we are talking with them to see whether they intend to take action and whether they need any kind of logistical or other support, but no decisions have been made.

This response leaves me pretty curious. It seems clear that, if the U.S. were to aid the Syrian opposition, the most likely route would be to do it through a third party, probably one of the Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This would be done, I assume, for the sake of deniability and to further remove any sense of responsibility for the ensuing consequences. We know Saudi Arabia and Qatar have openly argued for arming the opposition and have actually become frustrated with the U.S. on account of their “inactivity.” Some such support is already taking place from over the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon, although it hasn’t amounted to much. Many credible voices have argued that so-called “logistical” or intelligence support has been given from the U.S., but that has probably amounted to even less. Clinton denies this third-party support is taking place at the moment, although we can’t be sure what’s happening behind the scenes.

QUESTION: You’re suggesting nonlethal support? Or are you suggesting that the United States may support the closet backchannel arming of the rebels that’s going on now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We have made no decisions to do any of the above. We are in consultations with others who are watching this as we are watching it, and trying to determine what more can be done.

Clinton then speaks to the moral and practical aspects of this push to arm the opposition:

QUESTION: When I go back to the plight of the folks being shelled and who are very plaintive in their requests of the international community to be stronger, the question is: How long does the killing go on before the additional measures you’re talking about kick in?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think, Wyatt, if you take just a moment to imagine all the terrible conflicts that go on in the world, we have seen in the last 15 years millions of people killed in the Eastern Congo in the most brutal, terrible, despicable ways. It wasn’t on TV. There were no Skype-ing from the jungles that were the killing fields. And I could point to many other places where governments oppress people, where governments are turning against their own people. And you have to be very clear-eyed about what is possible and what the consequences of anything you might wish to do could be.

I am incredibly sympathetic to the calls that somebody do something. But it is also important to stop and ask what that is and who’s going to do it and how capable anybody is of doing it. And I like to get to the second, third, and fourth order questions, and those are very difficult ones.

QUESTION: The U.S. has repeatedly said that it’s reluctant to support the direct arming of the dissidents. The U.S. has been reluctant to arm the dissidents. Why?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, we really don’t know who it is that would be armed. We have met some of the people from the Syrian National Council. They’re not inside Syria. This is not Libya, where you had a base of operations in Benghazi, where you had people who were representing the entire opposition to Libya, who were on the road meeting with me rather constantly, meeting with others. You could get your arms around what it is you were being asked to do and with whom. We don’t have any clarity on that. We —

QUESTION: But what’s the – Madam Secretary, what’s the fear?…of arming the rebels?

SECRETARY CLINTON: First of all, as I just said, what are we going to arm them with, and against what? You’re not going to bring tanks over the borders of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. That’s not going to happen.

So maybe at the best, you can smuggle in automatic weapons, maybe some other weapons that you could get in. To whom, where do you go? You can’t get into Homs. Where do you go? And to whom are you delivering them? We know al-Qaida. Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al-Qaida in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?

So I think, Wyatt, despite the great pleas that we hear from those people who are being ruthlessly assaulted by Assad, you don’t see uprisings across Syria the way you did in Libya. You don’t see militias forming in places where the Syrian military is not trying to get to Homs. You don’t see that, Wyatt. So if you’re a military planner or if you’re a Secretary of State and you’re trying to figure out, do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable, we don’t see that. We see immense human suffering that is heartbreaking and a stain on the honor of those security forces who are doing it.

24 thoughts on “Clinton on Arming Syria’s Opposition Fighters”

  1. "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be classified as a war criminal, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as the United Nations announced more than 7,500 civilians had been killed by his forces since the start of the revolt.”

    Although no one have seen this mounted wall of human body’s anywhere, nor there are any photos taken by freelance photographers who are in the area and sending all other images you – tubing it for people to see, but I am sure that UN guided by US and EU will start prosecuting everyone but those who started this unfortunate war. US – NATO is simply ignoring to provide amount of people killed by NATO – US bombardment in Libya, NATO in practical terms killing people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and other places as NATO – US pleases daily, attacking them by drones or other means day and night killing children, elderly, man and women. US and NATO are in Afghanistan occupying that country for last 10 or so years, if the US and NATO forces killing 5 people a day thats alone amount to 18250, here I think UN alone should be responsible enough asking why. How about Hillary Clinton start calling Halliburton and other Oil companies for crime against humanity in Nigeria to Iraq, how about Hillary Clinton start demanding for UN to prosecute Bush regime bombarding civilian people in Iraq while they were seeking shelter, in one of these time over 3000 people were killed, or how about killings of people in Falujah, how about Hillary Clinton starts asking justice for hundred of thousands of Iraqis that are killed by US illegal war, how about US atrocities and bringing those responsible to justice when they helped the Chileans fascist to kill 60 thousands people in a soccer stadium, one of these people is Henry Kissinger, how about US being involved in coup de etas and other means where thousands of people been disappeared, tortured and later found killed by those which USA supported, how about Vietnam war and Korean war, how about todays date and US killings of people in Africa, how about US helping Israel to continue with its apartheid system…. Madam Secretary, please resign and let the people of Middle East be, for last three and so years you have cost more damage to people of Middle East then anyone at any time in US history, and in that regard US and English are the one which planed and orchestrated the Iranian coup de eta eliminating the growth of democracy in Middle East, US and EU conservatism government are at it again doing the same thing as in last 60 years.

  2. Awww. thanks for sharing your thoughts about it @Mojo.
    I guess you know a lot and you are very concern with this issue.

    I don't see any measures can be done by this time, to stop violence. Its usual now.

    Lily from piano électrique Yamaha 

  3. Please point to the specific clause(s) of Article II of the Constitution, or any one of the Constitution's amendments, which clearly ENUMBRATE(S) the power of the president to summarily annul any of the rights contained therein, or order any other branch of the federal government to do the same, thereby effectively nullifying his own office, along with the authoritay of any other branch of the federal government.

  4. Government (The Executive Branch) the Power to arbitrarily arrest, charge, Indefinitely Detain Americans that participate in 1st Amendment activities (on the premise) certain 1st Amendment Activities appeared intended or were used to support or provoke hostilities, combatants, belligerents; terrorism and or threaten
    Report

  5. National Security. It is foreseeable millions of Americans would increasingly not attend political meetings, peaceful protests or make comments on the Internet out of fear they might be arrested, lose their job; be put on Homeland Security’s NO Hire List, especially if they work for a government agency or contractor—that happened in Nazi Germany.

  6. Government is on the threshold of having surveillance cameras and drones most everywhere. TSA is expanding its checkpoints on highways, bus and train stops and ports. U.S. Government is actively monitoring without warrants—journalists, U.S. Citizens’ social networks, emails, phone calls, Internet Activity and faxes.

  7. One can only guess how much radiation is transmitted into the bodies of Americans by U.S. Government and Police covert scanning (without warrants) private homes—Americans walking on the street; driving vehicles; especially repeated scanning of “Persons of Interests”—potentially damaging their health.

  8. Had the Nazi police or Gestapo had X-ray scanners, no doubt the Nazis would have manufactured any reason or no reason to repeatedly x-ray at checkpoints, anywhere—persons the Reich deemed politically or socially undesirable, until either a targeted person was too ill to travel or dead.
    Report

  9. Most Americans haven’t awakened to the fact they are subject to an array of recently passed Fascist Laws including The National Defense Authorization Act and perhaps soon—the Enemy Expatriation Act that U.S. Government can unleash against the public.
    Report

  10. Congress gave U.S. Government the power to arrest and indefinitely detain Americans without probable cause or bringing charges: Detained U.S. Citizens now have no right to an attorney or trial or right to learn the charges against them—if any. If that isn’t Fascism what is?

  11. It is foreseeable U.S. activists in the future that occupy government and other property (and) violate State or Federal laws will be charged by U.S. Government for conspiring or provoking violence; supporting hostilities; International and or

  12. Domestic Terrorism and may be incarcerated in Indefinite Detention or prosecuted under United States Code 18 Sec. 2331 (appear intended (i)“to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion…”

  13. Any Violent-Occupation or Protest even if caused by agent provocateurs, potentially can play into the hands of individuals, law enforcement and corporations that may want America turned into a Police State: Almost any criminal or physical act can be used by U.S. Government or Police to charge a person or group with advocating, supporting or committing terrorism.

  14. "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could be classified as a war criminal, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as the United Nations announced more than 7,500 civilians had been killed by his forces since the start of the revolt.”

  15. There have been some of hundred respondents, however their sector information and budget wasn't asked. the info came from a self-diagnosis tool and that we weren't originally designing on business the info. Next year's information can have each sector and budget information.

  16. Madam Secretary, please resign and let the people of Middle East be, for last three and so years you have cost more damage to people of Middle East then anyone at any time in US history

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