Rafik Hariri Center Resident Fellow Faysal Itani writes for the Hill on why President Obama’s proposal to fund and arm Syria’s moderate opposition is an opportunity for Congress to develop a meaningful and effective strategy in Syria:
Congress is rightly skeptical about President Obama’s request for funds to arm and train Syria’s moderate opposition. It would be a mistake, however, to reject the proposal outright. Members of Congress can instead recognize this standoff as an opportunity to develop a meaningful and effective strategy in Syria — one that offers an alternative to the tyrannies of the regime and jihadist extremists. It is a chance to offer constructive advice on shaping a more effective Syria policy, while pressuring the administration to follow through on its verbal commitment to a political transition in Syria. If Congress foregoes this option, the White House is not likely to press its case much further. The moderate opposition in Syria, which alone is resisting the regime and jihadists, will probably collapse within six months, empowering President Bashar Assad and the sectarian extremists to which he has given rise.
Members of Congress have raised valid objections to the White House’s proposal, beyond justified concerns about accountability for the spending and allocation of the requested $500 million. First, the administration does not appear to have thought honestly about — or at least communicated clearly — which rebels qualify as acceptable partners, and what the criteria are for identifying them. That does not mean the task is impossible, but members of Congress are right to be concerned about such cavalier treatment of a critical issue.