LONDON – As Syria’s civil war has progressed, the West’s views on arming the opposition have become increasingly confused, which reflects the growing muddle on the ground. While President Bashar al-Assad’s regime remains vicious and tyrannical, and some of its opponents’ motives remain altruistic, the conflict can no longer be defined simply as one of good versus evil.
No unified, patriotic Syrian opposition has existed since extremists hijacked the peaceful protests in 2011. Indeed, some opposition tactics are as brutal as those of the Syrian regime. The United Nations estimates that security forces have suffered 15,000 fatalities, and the opposition 10,000, and that 45,000 civilians have died in the last two years of fighting. And the UN has condemned militant groups – which now form the majority of fighters in Syria – for murder, kidnap, torture, assault, corruption, and reliance on child soldiers.
With Syria engulfed by chaos, the world does not know what to think. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has admitted that the United States lacks a clear picture of the situation in Syria.
Moreover, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League special envoy for Syria, reports that opposition forces include 38 nationalities. Jihadi fighters connected to Al Qaeda are now in the majority. The United Kingdom’s Home Office has warned that hundreds of British and other European Muslims fighting in Syria alongside Al Qaeda-linked rebel groups could return home to carry out terrorist attacks.