Sending US weapons to the Syrian opposition will trigger a wave of chaotic violence, an ex-Pentagon official told RT. The arms could end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda or Al-Nusra Front and only serve to prolong the conflict.
The White House announced on Thursday that US intelligence has conclusive proof of chemical weapons use by the Assad government, though a prior report by the UN on the opposition's use of such weapons complicates matters.
President Obama is said to be considering plans for greater military intervention in Syria following the pro-Assad forces' crossing of his administration's "red line." The increased support will include arming the country's opposition fighters and could mean enacting a no-fly zone adjacent to Jordan's border.
Michael Maloof, a former Pentagon official, spoke with RT regarding this week's announcements by US officials.
Michael Maloof: In my view, we have to be very skeptical. I was at the Pentagon when intelligence assessments were made regarding Iraq and its WMD programs, and we know what the results were. A trillion dollars later, 4,500 [American] lives and we have nothing to show for it and there were no WMD. As previous commentators have pointed out, US intelligence assessments have to be looked at very, very carefully. This actually goes against the UN's preliminary determinations.
I think the US decision to arm is a very dangerous one. It will inevitably lead to uncontrolled sectarian violence as a result, and it actually could have an impact I believe on convening the Geneva II meeting, which the United States and Russia were supposed to chair. I think the United States is acting at the behest of Qatar and Saudi Arabia in order to push the Sunni-Wahabi agenda into Syria and ultimately into Lebanon -- and this is very, very dangerous.
A Free Syrian Army fighter shoots his weapon near Kindi hospital, which is under the control of forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad, as both sides fight to take control of the hospital in Aleppo (Reuters/Hamid Khatib)
RT: Surely ANY indication of the use of weapons of mass destruction is enough to apply tougher measures?
MM: Well, it depends upon who fired it. It depends upon who launched the gas. There is evidence -- and this is from the United Nations, a very impartial group -- that looked at it, and they claimed it came from the opposition, they have a capability. The intelligence assessment, which of course I haven't been able to see since it's classified, really needs to be looked at very carefully and scrutinized and questioned seriously in light of our previous experience in Iraq.
RT: What's the significance of the timing of these allegations?
MM: The timing was to give the opposition a little bit of backbone, because they are desperate. The tide has turned in favor of the Assad government; the timing is meant to boost morale. But the opposition is so fractured, how do you determine who will get the foreign arms? So that it doesn't get into the hands of the foreign fighters, the Al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda types. There's no guarantee about this, and that's why I believe it's going to prolong the conflict.
As to why the White House has determined that Syria's government has crossed a "red line," Deepak Tripathi, Honorary research fellow at the University of Roehampton, tells RT President that Obama faced pressure on all sides.
RT: London said it is undecided on whether to follow up on these accusations. What do you make of it?
Deepak Tripathi: I think president Obama's announcement that he has concluded that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons leaves no doubt that there will be some direct intervention from the US. Perhaps arms supplies, which had been going to the rebels through Jordan via Saudi Arabia and Qatar in any case. But that may not be enough against the background of several Syrian government victories. So, I think that the possibility of a limited or more broad no-fly zone for Syria is a distinct possibility at some stage in the near future.
RT: US allies have previously supported the US in their previous escapades. Could the US go it alone in arming the rebels?
DT: US allies, especially France and Britain, have been pushing the US and Mr. Obama in particular towards this decision. Mind you Mr. Obama has been under pressure domestically as well. In the past week, former President Clinton's comments describing Mr. Obama as a "fool" if he didn't intervene in Syria really hurt Obama's pride, and I think he made this decision against the background of both domestic and foreign pressures.
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