Oppose Sending Weapons to Unidentified Syrian Groups

Target: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Goal: Urge Senators to reject unfocused, dangerous efforts to arm unidentified Syrian rebels

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently approved legislation supporting provisions to arm “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups in the country’s ongoing civil war. In a 15-3 vote, the Senators approved this first legislation directly addressing potential military interventions in the war.

A Reuters article by Patricia Zengerle opined that the stakes and complications of potential intervention should clearly give Senators pause as this proposal moves to the full Senate. After nearly two years and as many as 80,000 fatalities, the Syrian civil war has become a global humanitarian concern. The recent evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government may have used chemical weapons against opposition forces – long touted as the “red line” that would necessitate American intervention – further increase calls for more direct action.

America’s public opposition to intervention notwithstanding, many Middle Eastern specialists also urge caution as policymakers weigh their options. A recent opinion article by Brussels-based foreign policy analysts Moritz Pieper and Octavius Pinkard notes that “the Syrian conflict is a prime example of why foreign governments need to proceed with caution and restraint.” Specifically, Pieper and Pinkard raise the caution flag in light of the rise of the al-Nusra Front, “the most effective fighting group” among the eccentric coterie of aligned rebels, which “has publicly pledged its loyalty to al-Qaida.” Other rebel groups have taken United Nations peacekeepers hostage, “demonstrating a real lack of discipline, awareness, and common sense.”

Assuredly, the continued devastation and violence in Syria present an abiding national security and humanitarian conundrum for policymakers from Washington to Brussels. Nevertheless, urge Senators to critically evaluate the risks of arming groups with extremist ties, groups that already committed violence against United Nations forces, and groups that appear likely to reify Syrian national atrocities should they succeed.


Dear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,

After two long years, the Syrian civil war continues to rage with fatality estimates as high as 80,000. Recent intelligence reports indicate that President al-Assad’s government may have used chemical weapons against his own people, while new reports of clashes and civilian collateral deaths emerge daily. The emerging humanitarian crisis presents a call to action for global leaders.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, long wrestling with these challenges, voted 15-3 in favor of a proposal to arm Syrian rebels. This approach is dangerous however, with numerous unforeseeable consequences. Despite language ensuring a “vetting” of “moderate” rebel opposition groups for potential arms aid, the leading rebel group, the al-Nusra Front, has already overseen rebel-sponsored atrocities and espouses ideological connections to al-Qaida’s brand of extreme theology. Providing assistance to even seemingly tangential groups may land American weapons in the hands of dangerous organizations that, should they assume control of Syria post-Assad, would almost certainly utilize them against American and allied interests abroad.

We, the undersigned, strongly urge you to use caution in advancing American involvement in Syria. Reject this proposal, and explore alternative forms of humanitarian aid and intervention that will not put additional Syrians or Americans at heightened risk.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Bo yaser, via Wikimedia

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