President Obama's Decision to Arm Rebel Groups will Escalate, Not End Syria's Brutal Civil War

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Posted June 19, 2013

Interview with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, conducted by Scott Harris


Just days after President Obama made public his decision to begin arming Syrian rebel groups fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the G-8 summit meeting in Northern Ireland issued a declaration calling for a negotiated and peaceful end to the two-year civil war which has claimed more than 93,000 lives. In deference to Russia’s refusal to back any declaration that makes Assad’s removal from power an explicit goal, the G-8 urged peace talks being planned in Geneva to reach a settlement that will produce a coalition government with a “top leadership that inspires public confidence.”

Many observers believe that the White House decision to arm the rebels was not, as announced, linked to a determination that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, but rather a reaction to the recent losses by opposition forces in key battles against Assad’s troops, such as in Qusair.

However, it began two years ago, the war in Syria has in many ways been transformed into a proxy battle between the region’s Sunni and Shiite governments – with Sunni majority Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey backing the rebels – against Shiite-dominated Iran and Hezbollah supporting the Syrian regime controlled by the Shiite offshoot Alawite sect. The involvement of the European Union and the U.S. on the rebel side and Russia’s support for the government has made the Syrian conflict a very real threat to regional stability, with violence now spreading to Syria’s neighbors. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, who warns that President Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebel groups will inevitably lead to a tragic escalation of that nation’s brutal civil war.

Phyllis Bennis is author of many books, including “Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy U.S. Power.” For more information about the New Internationalism Project, visit Bennis articles may be found at

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