Coaching the Syrian Crowd

The Syrian conflict reached a new height when President Bashar al-Assad’s forces introduced chemical weapons into the foreground. They crossed the “red line” that President Obama had told us would spark the U.S’s direct intervention into the conflict. But thank goodness that he has decided to hold off his resolve to put boots on the ground.
The last thing we need is for a repeat of the Stinger missile incident that occurred just over twenty years ago, when hostile forces in Afghanistan decided to stockpile and distribute U.S. missiles all over the Middle East instead of handing them back to us.
(You can imagine how the next decade was a hot mess for U.S. helicopters flying over Afghan territory.)
So if we have learned anything from that incident, we should be trying our best to avoid direct involvement altogether.
Let’s be real, who wants to spend the next several years trying to not get hit by our own missiles! If we increase the opposition’s access to weaponry, the U.S. might as well sponsor al-Qaeda’s international terror campaigns. There is no way we could prevent our arms from falling into the wrong hands and being used for purposes that don’t jive with our best interests.
We could take another route and simply rely on the UN Security Council but that would have to be accompanied by a lowering of expectations all around. As long as China’s and Russia’s relations with the Bashar al-Assad regime remain benevolent, it seems both countries will continue to veto any attempt by the UN to impose sanctions or pave the way for political peace (as they have done three times already). As of right now, many of the efforts of the United Nations are being proven futile because of a couple of stubborn states.
We can’t just stand by idly and watch the members of the UN grapple with each other and try to find common ground. Where there is such a major conflict of interest, there is no hope for a speedy plan of action.
However, the unfortunate introduction of chemical warfare in the midst of this crisis has made it necessary to act with extreme urgency. So we have to get involved somehow, and fast.
The third option, which seems to be our only option at the moment, would be to engage the Arab League.
The Arab League recently granted the Syrian opposition a seat in place of Syria’s vacated one. In addition, they are supplying arms to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). These are baby steps, and they are being taken in the right direction.
The United Nations is definitely not planning to support the Arab League since it is indirectly contributing to FSA’s violent defiance, so we’ve obviously hit a dead end. Syrian forces are now playing dirtier than ever, so according to the UN the opposition should do what? Throw down their arms? Of course not!
The resolve of the Arab League is practical and commendatory; it just needs the support of a superpower, which is where we come in.
The Arab League has been offering to broker talks between Syria, Russia and the U.S. and engage them directly at a negotiating table. Secretary of State John Kerry has already given his word to our cheerleading Arab League counterparts that he will set up a conference in the near future. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential in reaching compromise with governments that are otherwise unrelenting. But we can do more right now. The US can easily assume the position of “the coach” to the Arab League.
Though the task of supplying arms to FSA forces should be left to the Arab League, the US should be more than willing to step in and provide its other boundless resources.
The superior intelligence and training methods of our military can be used to arm the opposition with a serious advantage.
A surge in the number of casualties can be anticipated with this recent entry of chemical weapons, but what is equally a great concern is that it is only a matter of time before al-Qaeda gets a hold of them.
Where we see eye to eye with the Arab League is the communal desire to bring down one corrupt Syrian regime without inadvertently giving rise to another one. This is why a joint coordination is absolutely vital.

Seema Wadhwani is a third-year biological sciences major and can be reached at