The US State Department announced plans to assist an umbrella organization of groups fighting to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, called the Syrian Opposition Counsel with up to $27 million in ‘non-lethal’ aid, as well as an upgrade in its diplomatic recognition to “foreign mission” that permits the rebel alliance to open offices in Washington and New York from which it can lobby for more assistance, facilitate bank transfers and provide security.
The upgrade to “foreign mission” status still leaves the Syrian Opposition Counsel far from its goal of being recognized as a government in exile deserving of full diplomatic status.
The Syrian Opposition Counsel, headed by Ahmad Assi al-Jabra, president of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition forces, met with US Secretary of State John F. Kerry in Washington yesterday to plead its case for more relevant assistance, i.e. weapons, munitions and training its forces need not just to win the war, but to stave off destruction. In recent weeks, the Syrian regime has made significant strategic advances against various rebel strongholds.
In a huge setback for the revolt, Syrian opposition fighters were forced to abandon their positions in Homs, Syria’s third largest city, following a barbaric two year siege that saw thousands of civilians and hundreds of children die from starvation and disease.
Following the fall of Homs, the administration made it clear again that it has no intention of complying with opposition requests for significant military assistance or formal recognition as a government in exile.
However, if the current trajectory of Syria’s devastating civil war continues, the Administration might not have many subsequent opportunities left to provide the rebels with the aid they really need to depose President Assad. Not only are opposition groups in general losing ground in their war to oust Assad’s forces, but the Syrian Opposition Counsel has lost significant ground in its internecine battle with other, more radical, rebel groups fighting to replace the regime.
As the US and the West continue to dither on providing material assistance to rebel forces, Russia and Iran have dramatically ramped up both the scale and the scope of assistance they are providing to the Syrian government, but President Assad’s cause is being further assisted on the ground by tens of thousands of Russian-armed and Iranian-trained paramilitary militia forces, including up to 5,000 fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist army.
In recent weeks, Syrian forces have resumed the open use of chemical weapons against civilian populations in addition to ramping up the dropping of “barrel bombs” on densely populated urban neighbourhoods filled with civilian women and children.
“Barrel bombs” are President Assad’s crude new contribution to urban terrorist warfare that have already killed more than 20,000 Syrians since their first deployment in 2012. Barrel bombs are made from barrels packed with high explosives and shrapnel dropped by Syrian Air Force helicopters.
The crudeness of the barrel bombs’ ingredients combined with its indiscriminate method of deployment– when dropped, barrel bombs roll down the streets or alleys they creating a devastating wake of shrapnel filled fire and destruction.
The Syrian civil war has now killed more than 150,000 people, seriously wounded nearly a million more while having displaced seven million of Syria’s 27 million people.