‘Fueling Syrian war is last roll of dice for US & it's not working’
RT:The Syrian conflict has ground on for more than three years now. Why is the US looking to do this now? What's the US hoping to achieve by throwing this amount of money into a war zone?
Eric Margolis: First of all because it has lost the initiative in the war in Syria. The anti-US forces there clearly have an upper hand now. Secondly, President Obama, who is a cautious and thoughtful president, is under intense pressure at home in the US by Republicans and also by some democrats to do something. He does not want to do something particularly, but people in the US, they are clambering, they are accusing Obama of being a do-nothing president. Republicans are beating the war drums calling [for] him to invade. Even former Vice-President Dick Cheney was in the leading newspaper the Wall Street Journal blasting Obama and accusing him for being a defeatist and a loser.
So that is why Obama decided to send 300 special forces to Iraq, which seems pretty ineffective, and now he is saying that he is going to arm the Syrian rebels. The US has been arming the Syrian rebels for the last few years. Obviously this means much higher-grade, more powerful weapons.
RT:Can Washington be sure the money, if it's approved, won't fall into the hands of more extreme groups?
EM: It’s hard to know what to call them these days because there are jihadists on both sides, let us say he is trying to boost the strength of the US-backed jihadists in Syria by providing them with powerful anti-aircraft and antitank weapons which they need, hoping that they won’t fall into hands of anti-US jihadists. The way they are going to do this is apparently to conduct interviews to find out if these jihadists are moderates or not moderates.
I cannot think how the government is going to be able to think to distinguish these people. The US government in its wisdom has great trouble figuring out these countries, and certainly Syria and Iraq are at the top of the list. “Will the real moderate jihadists please stand up and indicate that” – it almost has a comical flavor too. Certainly it has an air of desperation about it I can't take it is going to work and what will happen is that many of the US arms coming in from Turkey will probably end up in the hands of ISIS and other anti-Western groups.
RT:This is the first time the US has authorized direct training and equipment for foreign fighters. Is this a major change to Washington's policy on Syria?
EM: No, I would call it an alteration, because the US through Turkey, and Kurds with Gulf Arabs, Saudis, have been arming Syrian rebels. They armed the Libyans who were fighting Gaddafi, they are sending more weapons to Iraq now, so the US is fueling the war and it is providing most of the finance to keep this war going in Syria. This really is the last roll of the dice for the US and this does not work. The only resource is to let the Israelis to come in and change the course of battle.
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