The breaking news right now is that Syrian opposition fighters in Homs have withdrawn from the city, saying their decision was based on “worsening humanitarian conditions, lack of food and medicine and water, electricity and communication cuts as well as shortages in weapons.”
There has been some disagreement in antiwar circles about Syria. Many observers have recognized the unstable situation, the armed revolt, Western propaganda, etc. and become convinced that the U.S. and its allies are deeply involved in Syria, fomenting a civil war by aiding the opposition fighters. I’ve never been convinced this was true, although as far back as early June I warned about the possibility of a direct intervention by the U.S., and advocated strongly against it. Today’s news that the opposition factions in Homs – the main theater of the insurrection – are retreating due to lack of aid and supplies tends to puncture the argument that they’ve been receiving any considerable Western support.
Furthermore, if we look at official statements just in the past few days, we see Washington and its allies strongly against direct military intervention. Secretary of State Clinton on Thursday of last week told CBS News that “We have made no decisions” about arming the opposition (read the full transcript here). She made the argument that such an intervention may escalate the violence, that the logistics of arming the opposition are too difficult, and that we know too little of the non-cohesive fighting groups, pointing out that “al-Qaida” and “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?”
Josh Rogin reports today that NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told him in an interview that “NATO assets won’t be used to deliver any military, humanitarian, or medical assistance” in Syria. “We haven’t had any discussions in NATO about a NATO role in Syria and I don’t envision such a role for the alliance,” he said, adding “The guiding question should be: Would it bring a sustainable solution to the problem if we decided to intervene, if we had the legal basis, if we had support from the region?” and answering that question in the negative.
I’m not one to take state officials at their word, but balancing them with available evidence is still important. There is some minor intervention from some of our allies in the Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And Turkey is sheltering defectors and has possibly let weapons come through the border, along with Lebanon. Some arms have also come into Syria through Iraq. But none of this has amounted to much at all and none of it is sufficient evidence of U.S. support for the Syrian opposition. There have been reports claiming NATO and Western secret agencies were covertly harboring and indirectly giving arms to Syrian rebels, reports that I never found to have been corroborated and which have been denied by reporters like Nir Rosen, who has been on the ground with the Syrian opposition. I’ve recognized and written extensively about the push by numerous influential voices in the U.S. to intervene on the rebels’ behalf, and I don’t deny the possibility that something is going on behind the scenes that the public isn’t privy to, but the evidence simply isn’t there.
Unfortunately, some but certainly not all within these aforementioned antiwar circles choose to equate the recognition that the U.S. has not intervened with being a supporter of proxy terrorism or U.S. imperialism. Of course, it’s possible to have a different opinion on what actual overt and covert U.S. policy towards Syria is, and not actually support foreign intervention or the imperialists in Washington.