Foreign Policy‘s Josh Rogin is reporting that the Obama administration has moved to expand its interactions with exiled Syrian opposition — led by the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council (SNC) — and domestic resistance including the Revolutionary Councils and scattered Local Coordinating Councils.
Much of this outreach will concern speeding “humanitarian and communications assistance” to Syria’s civilian opposition, and buttressing the SNC’s new defense committee which may serve as a satellite hub for the future coordination of military and technical assistance.
Despite calls for a U.S.-led intervention in Syria by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the administration is unwilling to engage the Free Syrian Army directly, given well-founded apprehensions that the command structure is hopelessly jumbled and rank-and-file fighters may have “contacts” with “extremist elements” (i.e., spent the past few years planting IEDs around Iraq’s highways and bi-ways).
For his part, Speaker John Boehner sided with Mitt Romney against military intervention, stating simply and succinctly “the situation in Syria is pretty complicated.”
Granting credit where it’s due, even Sen. Graham was sufficiently perceptive to admit, “I don’t think there’s a market for that right now,” when asked whether Americans could stomach a unilateral intervention to liberate Damascus.
Suffice to say that the senators’ impetus for action in Syria has more to do with the Iranian menace than aspirations of any homegrown opposition to the Assad regime. However, if we’re going to engage Tehran in a proxy war on Syrian soil, I’d advise making full partners of the international community and an all-too-willing Arab League before we stomp in guns blazing.
Needless to say, depriving Iran of its critical client state and last-ally-standing makes all the sense in the world. Put simply, Assad’s exit would advance our ability to contain Iran’s power projection by limiting access to militant proxies in southern Lebanon and Gaza.
But with weapons pouring in by the truckload from Iran, Russia and the Saudi peninsula, America’s best bet for the moment is to stay free and clear of a gathering internecine client war fought from the region’s neighboring capitals.