Jordan And ISIS

A contribution from NESA intern Maryam Arshad.

By now the news of the Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, being burned alive by ISIS has been heard by everyone. Reactions have been explosive in their own right. King Abdullah, of Jordan, has promised a powerful escalation of Jordanian airstrikes against the Islamic State.  Fox News has faced backlash for posting the ISIS produced propaganda video of the violent immolation, but the news channel’s reasoning is that the world needs to witness the horrific acts of ISIS. Overall the Muslim world has decried the violence of ISIS as being senseless and un-Islamic. As passionate as these reactions to this heinous event are, the current state begs the question – What’s next?

So many questions are coming out of the fold. Questions regarding the degree of Jordanian involvement in the airstrike campaign and that of other Gulf States have arisen. Along with this, the effectiveness of the U.S. led coalition is being probed. For six months airstrikes have been made on key Islamic State locations focused in Iraq, with a few in Syria. But the UAE and other countries have stopped airstrikes in Syria, saying that only the removal of President Assad will help the elimination of ISIS. The biggest question that remains is how will the world change its reaction to ISIS following this event?

Several answers can be speculated. The first speculation to what’s next?, could be that the U.S. and the rest of the world, including the airstrike coalition, do not change their strategy. Continue with business as usual, since it has been effective enough in Iraq. Moreover it doesn’t seem that any western country is interested in sending ground troops to fight another war. In this case continued airstrikes seem like the best option. Keeping the status quo however, is already proving to be something that will not happen. Jordan has intensified its response to ISIS in a very real way immediately following the release of the video. There also seems to be a public response urging a state reaction to ISIS. People are rallying in Amman following the airstrikes in support for more military response.

So if the status quo is not going to remain, then how is the response going to change? Ground troops in either Syria or Iraq do not seem to be a viable option. The public support for an operation like that just isn’t there. So what will change? The response and cooperation from Gulf States will increase, most likely following in Jordan’s example. The United States will still, most probably lead in the amount of airstrikes, but having the public support of people may change the outcome of the fight for the better.

The ISIS problem will not be one that will be resolved quickly or cleanly. According to BBC, ISIS still has full control in various regions in Syria. And ISIS’s penchant for fear based propaganda illustrates their fear mongering method of control. Because of this people are not likely to confront their power. ISIS also draws much of its power from residing and functioning in failed states. Syria and Iraq, already in unrest, make ISIS taking control effectively effortless. The removal of ISIS then rests in the hands of the global community, but how is up for speculation. So, what’s next?

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


Al Qaeda’s Breakup with ISIS and its Consequences

A contribution from NESA intern, Philippe Labrecque.

The Syrian war just got more complex when Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s top commander, officially disavowed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). There are a variety of factions fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, but few of these groups have grown in strength as much as ISIS, as numbers of foreigners joined their ranks in the last year.

With around 1000 armed groups, with a total of nearly 100,000 fighters, friction and conflicts within such fragmented opposition with different objectives had to be expected, even between al-Qaeda’s affiliates. But al-Zawahiri’s statement in relation to ISIS goes deeper than factions fighting for control over regions of Syria.

Al-Zawahiri’s public rejection of ISIS should be understood not only as a result of diverging interests and strategy in Syria between rebel groups but also as a growing internal struggle within al-Qaeda itself. ISIS is a creation of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his organization, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), that dates back to April 2013.

After creating the al-Nusra Front to fight in Syria, al-Baghdadi expanded his operations across the Syria-Iraq border in April of last year when al-Nusra’s successes on the battlefield made the headlines. By moving his operations to Syria, al-Baghdadi demanded that al-Nusra go back to being incorporated into ISI, effectively creating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), against al-Zawahiri’s explicit orders.

The public defiance of al-Baghadadi in creating ISIS led to a schism within the about to be absorbed al-Nusra Front as many within al-Nusra pledged their allegiance to al-Qaeda and al-Zawahiri in their own defiance to al-Baghadadi. The survival of a faction of al-Nusra, loyal to al-Qaeda, and the creation of the defiant ISIS helped fuel the recent carnage and violence between rebel groups that we have witnessed since at least January 2014.

The merger under al-Baghdadi’s command had tactical implications in the fight against Assad but it also weakened al-Qaeda’s successor to Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, within the organization as al-Baghadadi grew powerful enough to refuse an order by al-Zawahiri when the latter forbid the merger with al-Nusra. Al-Baghdadi’s rising influence and might was proven when al-Zawahiri didn’t further oppose the merge of what are two al-Qaeda affiliates.

It may be premature to say that al-Baghdadi and ISIS could challenge al-Zawahiri as the leader of al-Qaeda or even the al-Qaeda’s influence in Syria since ISIS is already isolated amongst the rebel groups in the current conflict due to their unpopular, brutal, tactics and their will to dominate the entire insurrection against Assad’s regime. However, for al-Qaeda’s top commander to publicly disavow one of its affiliates demonstrates that it may only have partial control over many of its ideological affiliates. If ISIS were to overwhelm al-Nusra and become the dominant faction amongst the rebel groups, it could further damage al-Qaeda’s leadership position within the organization and against rival international Islamist groups.

What this means for the civil war in Syria is that al-Qaeda is reduced to what is left of al-Nusra as well as fighting ISIS for influence and control over the opposition while the war against the Syrian regime is still raging. Its chances of achieving the dream of an al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist state on a parcel of Syria’s land is now nearly impossible. Moreover, the break with al-Baghdadi over Syria also means that al-Qaeda has very little influence left in Iraq as al-Baghdadi retains leadership there, for the moment at least.

Russian and Iranian support behind Assad’s regime and al-Qaeda’s potentially diminishing influence in Syria’s civil war and ISIS’ increased isolation confirms what most observers knew at this point: the Syrian civil war is a proxy war between Iran and the Gulf States for influence over the Middle East.

It remains to be seen however if al-Qaeda will get out of this conflict stronger, either by influencing the outcome or through propaganda, or if it may become even more decentralized to the point where it becomes difficult to truly assess what their actual strategic objectives are and if its ideological core has any executive power over self-proclaimed al-Qaeda affiliates in other regions such as North Africa. A fragmented al-Qaeda with tens of thousands of hardened fighters, after an eventual end to the Syrian conflict, might very well become the greatest threat to the greater Middle East and the West.

Despite the disavowal by al-Zawahiri, Al-Baghdadi proved that regional commanders with enough power may pursue their own objectives and vision of what the ideological cause demands. Depending on how and when the Syrian conflict culminates, the fight against al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism may become even more multi-faceted and require fighting many varied fronts if the West, and particularly the United States, must face multiple regional leaders increasingly free of al-Qaeda’s central command.

If it is obvious that the Syrian conflict is a proxy war, it is not so clear whether an even more fragmented al-Qaeda is necessarily better from an American counter-terrorism perspective. By the war’s end in Syria, the entire Middle East and the West may very well face a large wage of battle-tested fundamentalist fighters looking for their next battleground, creating instability in neighboring countries especially.

If Syria seems in a deadlock at the moment, it shouldn’t prevent the U.S. from preparing for a potentially disrupting new terrorist threat that equally endangers the stability in various Middle Eastern countries, especially Jordan, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. In every crisis there is an opportunity and as American interests and Middle Eastern interests converge, the U.S. should take the lead in building even stronger ties in the region and start the dialogue and cooperation with key actors in dealing with a common threat.

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


Is it becoming harder to define Syria?

A guest blogger has joined the NESA-Strategist. Chris Chapman, a research intern at the NESA Center, will be regularly posting his thoughts on events in Middle East, particularly focusing on the Levant. The Strategist writers welcome Chris and hope you enjoy his first piece which follows below…

As it stands today the very nature of Syria as a state is in question.  Large swaths of land are no longer under government control.  The Assad government no longer holds a clear and legitimate monopoly on the use of force within the state.  Even the boundaries of the Syria state are becoming less definitive as spillover threatens Lebanon to be subsumed by the conflict.  Syria may still claim to have a government, representation in international boundaries, and recognition by the international community, but is it truly a state? Consider two potential outcomes of this conflict. 

The first outcome is the Assad regime finds a way to quell the Sunni rebels.  It is hard to picture a scenario where Assad’s forces completely expel or defeat the rebels.  Instead, we are faced with Assad controlling certain regions of land and the Sunni’s maintaining control of others.  Is this still one state?  Could these groups coexist under the same roof, let alone acknowledge the legitimacy of the other?

An alternate outcome is that Sunni factions breakthrough and defeat Assad’s forces.  This will end the current regime.   Infighting and rivalry already exists amongst the opposition.  The internal division has not yet become a massive problem because each group is primarily fixated on defeating the regime.  If they were to prove successful in that effort, then it is likely that internal competition will escalate into something larger.  Salafist groups, Al Qaeda, the Free Syrian Army, Kurds, and others will claim the right to rule Syria, or seek to carve out a portion in which they rule.  The situation will devolve into more fighting between these groups and Syria in essence becomes a tribal battleground with no clear legitimate leadership.

The outcomes in these two situations pose risks and problems for the international community and native Syrians. If the conflict does not end in absolute victory for one side, then there is a real risk that Syria as it is defined today will no longer exist.  The country could fracture into small segments?  The removal of Assad may not be accompanied by the rise of a competent replacement, which makes Syria a state with no real leadership.

Chris Chapman is currently a Research Intern at the NESA Center and an M.A. candidate at American University’s School of International Service.  Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


The Jihajjis

For centuries Muslims have been making pilgrimage to Mecca. The hajj is an extremely important part of a Muslim’s religious life and it leads to a growth in societal status when one returns. Upon return, those who have successfully made the pilgrimage are accorded the title of Hajji, which denotes an enhanced respect for the person in question. This practice of according enhanced respect to pilgrims has existed for centuries and continues to do so.

However, there today appears to be another method to acquire respect based upon a different type of pilgrimage, that of jihad. While less formalized than the Hajj system of societal ascendancy (no new titles are necessarily bestowed) those leaving for jihad very often do find a newfound respect from their home societies upon return from warfighting. Jihad is very clearly an important element of Islamic tradition, including both its internal and external variants. Internal jihad refers to the attempt to continually improve oneself and external typically refers to efforts to defend or expand (depending on your interpretation of the relevant religious texts) the ummah, or community of believers.

In the 1980s Afghanistan offered prime jihadi real estate. Not only was there an opportunity for jihad, there was also significant funding and state support. Saudi Arabia in particular was known to encourage its militants to go to Afghanistan to fight, partly out of religious duty, but also out of a desire to export religious militants who were worrying the political establishment (especially after the 1979 Grand Mosque Seizure in Mecca). Fighting was “openly celebrated and did not require concealment…many activists understood their work as a form of political and religious solidarity.” On return many jihadis found a newfound respect from their compatriots.

As a side note one could make an argument that jihad is significantly more respected when the jihad takes place in a foreign land. Local efforts and attacks often have very different effects – as returning Saudi (and other) militants found when they attempted to bring the fight back home.

The Arab Spring has provided new opportunities for jihad. Syria, Libya, and maybe Egypt provide opportunities for jihad. There is a lot of material coming out discussing states’ worries that returning jihadis will come back and attempt to pursue jihad in their own countries, but there is another, more subtle, effect as respected jihadis return from their ‘pilgrimages.’ Most of these ‘Jihajjis’ aren’t going to turn towards militancy in their home countries, but they may, as a result of their enhanced societal prestige, be able to influence public opinion and public policy in unexpected ways.

That effect may be much harder to gauge than that of more militant, violent actors, but it could push societies into a mindset more open to fundamentalist interpretations of religious texts and duties.

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Top Reading in Environmental Security News this Week

A little cheerful news to start your week…

          Oil rose to a one-month high as the world responded to growing tensions in the Middle East after Israel’s strikes in Syria this weekend.

          Increased frequency of sand and dust storms in the Gulf have spurred GCC countries to work with the UN Environmental Programme to develop initiatives aimed at preventing soil erosion and degradation.

          Rapid flooding in Nepal is literally reshaping the landscape of the country and threatening the tourism industry there, the single largest sector of the Nepalese economy.

          Rapid acidification in the Arctic Ocean guarantees long-term melting of ice in the North Pole. In addition to irreversibly altering the ecosystem, huge stores of oil and gas could be opened up to development.

Please note that the views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the National Defense University, Department of Defense, or US Government

Chemical Weapons Used – Now What?

President Obama recently acknowledged chemical weapons use in Syria, but underscored the lack of evidence required to link the attack to the Assad regime, saying, “What we don’t know is who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody.” During his press conference, Obama cautioned against “rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence” because it would ultimately negatively impact our ability to “mobilize the international community to support what we do.” For the time being, he advocated continuing a rigorous investigation, using “all assets and resources at our disposal, as well as “working with neighboring countries to establish a clear baseline of facts,” and calling on the UN to lead the investigation.

Not surprisingly, Obama’s response to the chemical weapons accusations has generated a wide range of commentary. Many of the president’s critics, like senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain, for example, repeatedly call for greater US involvement in Syria, particularly in arming rebels and creating a no-fly zone. The New York Times editorial board recently challenged the senators, suggesting that such critics fail to offer a “coherent argument for how a more muscular approach might be accomplished without dragging the United States into another extended and costly war.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly part of the Obama administration and current professor at Princeton University, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post, also criticizing Obama’s inaction on Syria, essentially accusing him of ignoring “evidence” of chemical weapons attacks, saying that “evidence has been squelched again and again,” but notes that British, French and Israeli statements confirming the attacks have forced the administration to finally acknowledge the problem. John Allen Gay, assistant editor of The National Interest, suggests that Slaughter’s “evidence” should be viewed with caution, however. Regarding the cable sent by the US consul in Istanbul last December referenced by Slaughter, Gay explains that there are “multiple discrepancies in reports of what happened… yet Slaughter’s account removes all this subtlety and contradiction.” Gay further warns that this “seemingly willful blindness to shades of gray in the interpretation of intelligence should awaken memories of the rush to war in Iraq,” and that “Slaughter’s Cheneyesque reading of the Istanbul cable is a fresh reminder of the eargerness for war in some circles – right and left.”    

George Friedman, founder and chairman of Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm, carefully reviews a long list of complex issues associated with intervention in Syria, frequently drawing on lessons learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. He also specifically addresses the current rush towards intervention on both sides of the political aisle, harshly stating:

“The difference between right-wing and left-wing interventionists is the illusions they harbor. In spite of experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, right-wing interventionists continue to believe that the United States and Europe have the power not only to depose regimes but also to pacify the affected countries and create Western-style democracies. The left believes that there is such a thing as a neutral intervention — one in which the United States and Europe intervene to end a particular evil, and with that evil gone, the country will now freely select a Western-style constitutional democracy. Where the right-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, the left-wing interventionists cannot absorb the lessons of Libya.”

Fortunately, current government officials in positions of influence are still advocating a more cautious approach in handling Syria. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, for example, explained that employing the “military instrument of power” will not necessarily end violence, stabilize Syria, or lead to political reconciliation. He  underscored differences between Libya and Syria’s air defense systems, noting that, “in Syria, there are five times more air defense systems, some of which are high end. The US military has the capability to defeat that system,” he explained, “but it would be a greater challenge, take longer, and require more resources.”

Like General Dempsey, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has also expressed apprehension regarding a US-led intervention, and questioned, specifically, whether the US could even secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.

Obama is wise to defer to the UN for a resolution on the chemical weapons use issue. As Bruce Riedel states, “The Bush administration’s weapons-of-mass-destruction debacle in Iraq unfortunately means that only a UN confirmation of Syrian chemical weapons use will have real international credibility. The US, UK, and Israeli intelligence assessments carry too much baggage to convince skeptics.” Obtaining this confirmation, if played correctly, can help Obama convince Putin that Russia can no longer support Assad’s brutal regime, he argues. In severing this relationship, China will adjust its stance, too, as it “will not stand alone against a UN Security Council consensus,” Riedel explains.

Undoubtedly, the Syria crisis is ugly and complicated, and becoming more so. Eli Lake of The Daily Beast reported that, according to “recent intelligence community assessments,” the Syrian military has “transferred more and more of its stock of sarin and mustard gas from storage sites to trucks where they are being moved around the country.” To make matters worse, officials warn that militias tied to Assad are receiving training on how to use the weapons. If these statements are indeed true, they demonstrate the time sensitivity involved in the decision-making process. On the other hand, while the chemical weapons issue is urgent, exercising prudence and caution are critical, especially if we hope to avoid another entanglement reminiscent of the all-too-recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Peace at last?

Super quick post today as I am getting ready to head off to Turkey with some other members of the NESA team. This development means a lot of things to a lot of different people and, being no expert on Turkey, I don’t feel qualified to comment on it much.

What I will say, though, is that this has the potential to cause big changes throughout the Middle East – not least in Syria.

This link from the Economist says a lot more than I can.

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

As Washington decides whether to intervene more assertively in Syria, the civil war there has once again spilled across the country’s borders. Last week, armed groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army clashed with an Iraqi army convoy that was defending Syrian government troops near the Rabia-Yaarabiya border crossing. The result was 62 Syrian and nine Iraqi soldiers killed or wounded along with six members of the FSA.

In response to these events, the Iraqi government announced the formation of a new Iraqi Army unit in the city of Sinjar located along the areas disputed by Arabs and Kurds in Nineveh province bordering Syria. The Iraqi government justified this deployment due to fears of further infiltration of Iraq’s borders by Syrian opposition forces allied with Jabhat Al-Nusra. These developments further escalated tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government in the disputed territories that have been simmering since November when confrontations near Kirkuk resulted in the deaths of 11 people. These events show how the crisis in Syria is simultaneous serving to further destabilize the situation in Iraq.

Somehow amidst these developments, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki found time to host Egyptian Prime Minister Kandil and discuss economic and energy issues, despite the Muslim Brotherhood led government’s support of the rebels in Syria. Further complicating the situation are upcoming Iraqi provincial elections on April 20th, along with continued protests in Iraq’s predominantly Sunni areas against the authoritarian nature of the Iraqi central government.

So what are we to conclude from all of these simultaneous events? 1) Iraq feels incredibly vulnerable to the effects of a destabilized Syria – so much so, that it is reluctantly being pushed further into the Iranian orbit. Washington should capitalize on this insecurity and help its “strategic partner” reintegrate with the GCC and the Sunni Arab world instead. Iraq’s recent hosting of the Arab League Summit and its high level talks with Egypt make for good starting points. 2) Any decision Washington makes regarding the level of support it decides to provide the Syrian rebels should take into account conclusion number one above. 3) Finally, Iraq is not immune to the Arab Awakening. Maliki’s heavy handed moves to quell the Sunni protests and consolidate power at the expense of the country’s independent institutions have not gone unnoticed. Iraq is dangerously close to no longer choosing to “solve” its problems through the political process instead of through violence as the U.S. has touted since the withdrawal of its military forces.

The Obama administration’s rush to declare Iraq a success and shift to other policy priorities in the Middle East such as Syria and Egypt ignores the fact that all three are interrelated. Washington is wise to resist military escalation in the region, but this is no excuse to bury its head in the sand and ignore how the internal politics in one country can spillover into the wider region.

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Is Climate-proofing a Tool for Dictators?

I came across this interview last Wednesday with Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia of the Center for Climate and Security talking about the ways in which climate change impacted the violence in Syria. There is a lot of meat to the article, but I found one quote particularly striking – I’ll post it here:

“In other words, doing something about climate change is not going to bring world peace, in and of itself. However, it is very important that governments and the international community recognize that we can do something about mitigating climate change and also adapting to the risks. Governments can climate-proof their infrastructure: We’re talking about better water practices, better irrigation techniques. It also means climate-proofing institutions we normally don’t think of as associated with climate change, such as health infrastructure.”

I found the idea of “climate-proofing” government institutions to be really interesting. It seems to me that often the best forms of “climate-proofing” are just good governance to begin with – i.e. improving access to healthcare, ensuring an equitable and efficient distribution of clean water in rural areas, etc.

If that is the case, though, does it really make sense to talk about “climate proofing” as a tool of governance that any regime can use to shore up control over their citizenry? For example, given what we know about the Assad regime could it have ever employed “climate-proofing” without a radical shift in strategy – one that might have been equally destabilizing to the regime as the climate changes it sought to mitigate?

My worry here is that pursuing “climate friendly” governmental policies could be used as tools for keeping dictators and tyrants in power. I would love to hear what Werrell and Femia think about that and how they would answer the above questions. In any case, it’s something for me to grapple with for a while.

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

Please Sir, Could I Have Some MANPADS?

A few weeks ago I argued the United States should not be arming Syrian rebels. This week the United States stepped up its aid to the rebels, but maintained the non-lethal nature of said aid. The rebels, unsurprisingly, are not happy about this. A spokesman for the Syrian National Council, Mohammad Sarmini, states:

“This has become embarrassing and degrading. The regime’s escalation has rendered even our unmet pleas foolish. We used to beg for antiaircraft missiles. What do you ask for to counter Scuds?”

The same article mentions that Gulf States are already in the process of providing rebels with small arms. We need to be clear about what the rebels are asking for. They are not asking for more AKs or ammunition for small arms, they are asking for advanced and dangerous weapons systems. Sarmini’s quote indicates a desire for weapons designed to counter Scuds and antiaircraft weapons. While it appears that Syrian rebels have managed to get their hands on a few Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles, they are not in wide circulation as of yet. Regardless, there are serious issues with deciding to supply the rebels with this type of weaponry.

Man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) hold a particular danger for proliferation. MANPADS falling into the wrong hands would most emphatically not be desirable. One of the most famous uses of MANPADS was in 1994 when a plane carrying the leaders of Burundi and Rwanda was shot down – triggering the Rwandan genocide. Of course, not all attacks need lead to genocide, but there have been other instances of attacks on civilian airliners. For example, in 2002, Al Qaeda fired a few shots at an Israeli civilian aircraft in Kenya (they missed). Suffice it to say, a few well fired missiles at civilian airliners could have dramatic economic effects, not to mention the significant loss of life.

Sarmini’s mentioning of arms for countering Scuds is also problematic. Patriot missile systems, or something similar, are incredibly complex and it is very unlikely that, even were the rebels to receive them, they would be able to operate them. Even the Patriot systems in Turkey are operated by NATO troops, not Turkish forces. It is also highly unlikely the United States would send NATO troops into Syria to operate advanced anti-ballistic missile (ABM) technology, let alone directly giving them to the rebels. At that point, intervention would be necessary to at least protect the troops operating the weapons systems. An intervention in Syria is clearly not palatable for the United States.

The proliferation concerns here should not be downplayed. While they do not make up the majority of Syrian rebel forces, Jabhat Al Nusra is gaining strength. Some estimate them as making up around a quarter of rebel forces. The same report notes that this Al Qaeda-affiliated group, generally held to be a direct descendant of Al Qaeda in Iraq, has attempted to sponsor cross-border attacks in Jordan. The United States simply should not be giving advanced weapons systems like MANPADS or ABMs to rebels when potentially a quarter of those rebels are affiliated with Al Qaeda. 

Small arms are already being taken care of by our allies in the region. Given that fact, it is better for the United States to focus on being ‘above the fray’ as much as possible so as to be able to produce a solution acceptable to all players. As described by my colleague Mr. Presto, siding fully with the rebels will make it much less likely the United States will be able to broker a deal with all sectors of Syrian society. So, sending small arms does not add to what is already being sent. This type of weaponry also presents serious proliferation concerns, especially if these arms fall into Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters or spread outside the borders of Syria. The more serious, advanced weapons systems being discussed above, ABMs and MANPADS, either also hold too great a danger of proliferation or are too complex to be usable in the shifting sands of Syria’s rebellion.

Added bonus for the week is a map, also linked to abvove, of MANPADS attacks in Africa:


Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.