Should Western Nations Arm Syrian Rebels?

A Free Syrian Army member prepares to fight with a tank
A Free Syrian Army member prepares to fight. Photo: Freedom House/flickr.

As the ‘Friends of Syria’ met in Istanbul in late April 2013, one of the questions dominating the meeting was whether Western nations should arm Syria’s rebels. Thus far, such a strategy has been resisted by the United States, while countries such as France and Britain have advocated a relaxing of arms embargoes so that arms could begin to flow to Syria’s rebels. For its part, the external Syrian opposition has been advocating for arming rebels for some time now, along with calls for a no-fly zone or some other form of military intervention that have been ignored by Western powers. Meanwhile, countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have begun to funnel light weapons and other resources to Syria’s rebels. Some evidence even suggests that weapons from Libya are finding their way into Syria. At the same time, Syria’s regional allies, mainly Hizballah and Iran, continue to supply it with weapons, and, in the case of the former at least, actively participate in the fighting.