Most of the weapons that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funneling to rebels in Syria are winding up in the possession of Islamists, not the secular groups the U.S. and its Western allies want to help, reports David E. Sanger in The New York Times. That assessment, attributed to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats, suggests that President Obama's strategy of avoiding direct involvement in the conflict isn't helping to realize the goal of propping up the pro-democracy opposition that's been fighting for a year and a half to get rid of President Bashar al-Assad. It also calls into question the approach endorsed by Obama's rival, Mitt Romney, who wants to send greater firepower "to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters and fighter jets," but also wants to rely on "our Arab allies" to do it. Is the U.S. undermining itself and helping jihadists with a hands-off strategy in Syria?
The only winners here are the Islamists: "Relying on Qatar and Saudi Arabia to arm the rebels" obviously isn't working, says Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest. We need to put CIA officers on the ground "to build working relationships with the non-jihadi" rebels so we can give help directly to those who deserve it. It's dangerous, but there's no other way to cut out terrorists.
"Weapons flowing to jihadists in Syria"
And this is Obama's fault: "Let me take this opportunity to say I told you so," says Moe Lane at Red State. I've always said — as has Romney, by the way — that "if we don't arm the Syrian rebels, somebody will, and that somebody might (read: 'probably will') not like us very much." Romney has emphasized that he would work with our allies to identify the right people to arm. "Obama's hide-our-head-in-the-sand policies" are worse than not helping the rebels at all.
"The NYT needs to read *itself* on the Syrian rebel situation"
But conservatives have no better solutions: Sending weapons to the rebels hasn't toppled Assad, says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Do Romney and other Obama critics really want to send in ground troops or provide air cover to the rebels? Obama has doubled our presence in Afghanistan, bombed Libya, and ratcheted up the drone campaign in Pakistan. If conservatives really want another war they should "have the guts to say so" instead of pretending Obama could somehow magically get rid of Assad without putting more U.S. troops at risk.
"Conservatives need to put up or shut up on Syria"