U.S. deals with the ‘symptoms not the disease’ in Syria: analyst

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The U.S. would benefit from providing more military assistance to opposition fighters in Syria rather than simply “dealing with the symptoms” of the conflict, a leading analyst has told Al Arabiya.


The U.S. policy toward war-torn Syria involves the supply of “non-lethal” technology for opposition fighters and humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees, in a vastly different approach to the one it pursued in Libya.

But this is not in the best interests of the U.S., Andrew Tabler from the Washington Institute for Middle East Studies told Al Arabiya.

“U.S. policy does not deal with the disease itself, Bashar al-Assad’s rule, and his minority rule over a majority Sunni population inside Syria. Instead staying out of it just deals with the symptoms, with the refugees and the outflow,” said Tabler.

The U.S. government has said there is a high risk of weaponry ending up in the hands of Islamist extremists believed to be among those fighting the Syrian government.

However, Tabler said it was in the interests of the United States to provide more assistance to the opposition fighters.

“Providing military assistance to the opposition in Syria will help the United States influence those groups and to try and bring about a post-Assad Syria in liberated areas, which is more in keeping with U.S. interests.” Tabler said.

He added that staying out of the conflict is not going to do that. “In truth this is why our policy has failed until now,” he said.

The U.S. has slapped sanctions on one group, the al-Nusra Front, on grounds it is an alias for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The State Department has also listed the group as a terrorist organization.

However, reports of increased U.S. support for the armed opposition in Syria emerged last month with camps for training members of Free Syrian Army (FSA) were set up in Jordan.

There have been reported killings of civilians by both sides fighting in the conflict. The al-Nusra front has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings that have taken place in the capital Damascus and the regime has shelled large areas of the country.

Tabler said he expects the conflict in Syria to continue for up to a decade. “It is open knowledge that this conflict will go on, in one shape or form, for 5 to perhaps 10 years. It is not even debated,” he said.

The United Nations has reported that over 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the two year conflict, the hope they once had of a West led intervention bringing the war to a close has started to fade.

“We are constantly working with our partners on and our policies are constantly being reviewed to see if we can find ways to provide more humanitarian aid and more assistance to the opposition,” Jay Carney the White House Spokesman told reporters.

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