The U.S. took a step back in its support of the Syrian opposition
movement by withdrawing all non-lethal military support to the rebel
fighters, a move designed to add some clarity to a civil war spinning
increasingly out of control.
America began supplying non-lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels
last year, in addition to its continued humanitarian assistance. Many
analysts have said this support amounts to a paltry sum in the face of
money, arms and troops provided to the Bashar Assad regime from Russia
and Iran, and Lebanese militant political party Hezbollah.
The last year has been marked by a sharp rise in al-Qaida-affiliated
rebel groups, such as ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front, that may make up as
many as a quarter of the overall fighters. The organized Free Syrian
Army has lost control of checkpoints and border crossings to such
groups, and reports on Wednesday indicate extremists now control some FSA weapons caches.
“We have not been sending that much in to the armed rebel groups to
begin with,” says Mona Yacoubian, an expert on the Syrian uprising with
the D.C.-based Stimson Center. “It certainly is not the kind of
assistance, both in terms of what we’re sending and the quantity, that
would change the dynamics on the ground in a significant way.”
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