A new strategy from Saudi Arabia and the United States could force Assad to negotiate.
By Ola Wam.
Syria is a flaming quagmire of uncertainty. This spring’s sequence of military gains by government forces in central and northern Syria—retaking Homs and parts of Aleppo—has made foreign backers Saudi Arabia and the United States reassess their strategies. A route to resolution has now emerged: it lies with the Free Syrian Army.
Cut off from large-scale foreign funding and sidelined by Islamist rebels, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was in shambles. But discord in the Islamist camp has given them a new chance. Saudi Arabia realized that supporting the FSA may be more politically defensible than supporting radical Islamists, like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Efforts have been made to restructure the organization in a bid to attract foreign funding. This spring, the leading civilian opposition group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (N.C.), in which the FSA holds sears, commenced on a lobbying tour to the U.S. to secure funds and advanced weapons for the FSA. In a May meeting with Ahmad Jarba of the N.C., U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed belief that the international community had “wasted a year” by not coordinating efforts and putting joint support behind the FSA.
After initially opposing the delivery of such weapons, the U.S. has rethought its policy of giving only nonlethal military assistance.
America’s plan is not to draw a victor from the conflict but to …
To read complete articles from the Summer 2014 issue, you must subscribe to our eReader edition.