As bad as the Assad family is, it may be the lesser of two evils. The Assads have never launched chemical weapons against Israel during their 43 years of rule, a detente due to Israel's reputed nuclear arsenal. If the rebels take over, especially if al Qaeda has infiltrated them, they may not respect the detente. For the most part, Israel has remained out of the civil war, although it launched two missile attacks against the regime earlier this month. Syria is regarded by many as the last bastion of secular Arab nationalism, a lesser threat than regimes controlled by Islamic clerics through Sharia law.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, a Christian who has been able to curtail some of the turmoil in Lebanon since he took office in 2008, warned the political factions not to plunge the nation into sectarian discord. There are militant factions in several countries that are splitting up and taking sides. The Lebanese militia and Lebanon's Sunni Muslims mostly back Syria’s predominantly Sunni opposition, and are crossing the border to help the rebels fight Assad's government. Lebanon's Shiite Muslims support the Assad regime.
The militant Fatah movement, part of the PLO and based in Israel's West Bank, warns that if Assad is toppled, he may follow Kuwait's emir in 1991 and expel the rest of the Palestinian population out of revenge. Hamas, the militants who rule Gaza, back Assad. The fact that radical Islamic extremists are divided supporting either side is more evidence that choosing sides is not so clear cut.
Complicating things further, Russia opposes military intervention in Syria, and has criticized U.S. support of the rebels. There are reports that Russia is arming the Syrian government, and Israel is concerned these weapons could end up in Iranian hands or with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia group that takes its orders from Shiite Iran. Hezbollah, a dominant political force in neighboring Lebanon, has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have protested the transfer of the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft defense system to the regime.
This is looking like another Kosovo, where it was not really clear which aggressor the U.S. should oppose, if any. While President Clinton tried to spin U.S. intervention though NATO as a success there, the feuding between Serbs and Albanians has continued since the interim government was set up after the Kosovo War ended in 1999. At least in Kosovo, there wasn't a concern of al Qaeda getting ahold of weapons and using them against us. Sixty-one percent of Americans polled by Reuters/Ipsos do not want the U.S. becoming militarily involved in Syria. Only ten percent favor intervention.
But the most intriguing part about the Obama administration's move to arm the Syrian rebels may be a connection to the terrorist attack in Benghazi last fall. Rep. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is investigating whether the attack took place in retaliation for Ambassador Christopher Stevens allegedly shipping arms from Libyan extremists to the Syrian rebels to help them topple Assad. A source told Fox News the reason Stevens was in that dangerous part of Benghazi the fateful night of September 11th was to negotiate the weapons transfer, meeting with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin just an hour before the assault began. Fox News confirmed that the Libyan flagged-ship Al Entisar appeared in a Turkish port 35 miles from the Syrian border five days before Stevens was killed.
If true, this would explain why the Obama administration tried to blame a video for the attack, and why it is now trying to gain Congressional support to send military weapons to the rebels. Sending weapons to the Syrian rebels without Congressional approval would appear to be another Iran-Contra type of scandal, angering both the right and the left. President Reagan's National Security Adviser John Poindexter and National Security Council staff member Oliver North were forced to resign over Iran-Contra, and several high-level Reagan officials were convicted of crimes. At least in Iran-Contra we were exchanging arms for hostages. What are we getting in return for sending arms to the Syrian rebels? It is dubious that it will benefit Israel. Should we really be giving the rebels our top technological equipment and arms? Considering how much the left likes to rail against the right, labeling us “neocons” who want the U.S. to act as the world's policeman, it sure is funny that Obama has aggressively sought out military action in Afghanistan and now Syria.