On Feb. 19, the United States and Turkey made an agreement to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight the ever-expanding Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The plan involves arming and training several thousand rebels that are considered “moderate.” This is certainly not the first time the United States has armed rebel organizations in the Middle East. In fact, this isn’t even the first time the United States has armed Syrian rebels in particular. With the United States’ destructive track record of arming rebels in the past, the notion of once again arming and training them is troubling to say the least.
The U.S. armed Syrian rebels for the first time in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, when the rebels fought against President Bashar-Al-Assad. Ironically, one of the many rebel groups who fought against Assad during this time was an ISIS not as well-known. The U.S. sent anti-tank weapons, ammunition and guns to this wide collection of different rebels, particularly those in the Free Syria Army. The U.S. — most likely unknowingly — allied itself with ISIS while arming the different rebel forces fighting against Assad. On top of this, much of the Free Syrian Army has now joined ISIS. The ongoing Syrian Civil War has torn the country apart, dismantled its central government, taken over 160,000 lives and has allowed ISIS to expand its influence in Syria and Iraq. ISIS’ most recent action was the kidnapping of over 200 Assyrian Christians. Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that large amounts of Syrian rebels are joining ISIS, signaling their growing forces. The essence of these points is that the first time the U.S. armed Syrian Rebels back in 2013, a huge blowback occurred, which turned out to be the rise of ISIS and its subsequent expansion. On top of this, the Syrian Civil War has continued on with no end in sight, with over 160,000 people killed.
Considering the harmful blowback still wreaking havoc in Syria caused by the U.S. arming Syrian Rebels the first time, what is to be expected this time around? Much like the disastrous first attempt at arming the rebels, we have no idea who these people really are. It is evident by the constantly changing alliances of these rebels that those who may be considered “moderate” now have a good chance of being more violent in the future. Considering the completely failed record of the United States arming and funding rebel organizations in the past, this next round of arming the Syrian rebels will most likely create more destruction, more violent militia groups and more chaos in the Middle East.