Myth Two: Arming rebels would undercut peace prospects.
Reality: The only hope for serious peace talks lies in convincing Assad and his backers in Moscow that he might lose.
Myth Three: If we send arms to the rebels, they may fall into al-Qaida’s hands.
Reality: Jihadi groups linked to al-Qaida already have plenty of weapons, provided by wealthy Gulf Arabs. It’s the more moderate commanders who are short of weapons. Indeed, U.S. policy has undercut the moderates and enabled jihadis to become the most prominent rebels, even though their numbers are relatively small.
Myth Four: It’s time to let someone else do it.
Reality: Outsourcing the arming of rebels to Qatar and Saudi Arabia led to the results we most feared. Lacking strong U.S. oversight, the Gulf states armed their favorite militias, often hard-line Islamists. They also ignored U.S. pleas to unify the militias into a coherent force. Meanwhile, the Europeans and Turks remain reluctant to help unless Obama takes the lead.
Myth Five: Arming the rebels will fuel a sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis.
Reality: Helped by Iran and Hezbollah, Assad is provoking sectarian slaughter to convince Syrians that they need a dictator. The longer this war goes on, the greater the bloodshed. It has already spread beyond Syria’s borders, with dangerous implications for the entire Middle East.
Myth Six: We can afford to stay uninvolved and let the Syrians sort it out themselves.
Reality: Syria has already become a proxy war, with Iran and Moscow testing Obama’s willingness to defend U.S. interests. A swift delivery of antiaircraft and antitank weapons to vetted rebel commanders would make Assad’s allies think twice about the dangerous game they are playing. And it would counter the growing global perception that Obama has abandoned America’s historic leadership role.