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What Role Should the United States Play in Syria?

Author: Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
May 28, 2013
BBC

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As civil war in Syria rages, Russian officials say they will send anti-aircraft missiles to the forces backing President Bashar al-Assad, while EU officials have announced they will not renew an arms embargo, a move that could free member states to arm the rebels.

In Washington, meanwhile, US officials say they will not send arms to the rebels.

Yet over time the US officials may also change their minds, particularly if the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, analysts say.

A panel of experts weighs various options for the US in Syria, ranging from doing little to setting the stage for direct military intervention.

Robert Danin, senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Despite my longstanding reluctance to provide arms to the Syrian opposition, the realities of the conflict today argue for doing just that.

While removing President Bashar al-Assad from power is important, the real issue is what kind of regime will rule Syria after his departure.

Syria's rebels are already being armed by countries that want Syria to emerge as a Sunni-dominated Islamist state, not as an inclusive, multi-ethnic country.

To the extent the US and the West wish to counter the many countries from the region already seeking to shape the outcome, providing arms to Syria's rebels is necessary.

Providing weapons also strengthens non-jihadists and enhances Washington's leverage in future negotiations or in the post-Assad Syria.

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