Tags: Syria | rabil | us | aid | syria | rebels | assad

Author Rabil: US Aid to Syrian Rebels Won't Remove Assad

Tuesday, 25 Jun 2013 04:53 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald and Kathleen Walter

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Aid from the United State to Syrian rebels won't hasten the removal of leader Bashar al-Assad, according to author and university professor Robert Rabil.

Iran, Iraq, and Hezbollah are intervening in Syria "merely to prevent the collapse of the Assad regime," Rabil, who earned his doctorate in Near Eastern and Judaic studies, told Newsmax TV. "Whatever modest weapons the president is talking about, it's not going to go ahead and make a dent now."

Rabil, an associate professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University and author of the recent book "Religion, National Identity and Confessional Politics in Lebanon: The Challenge of Islamism," said the Assad regime is on the offensive, not the defensive, and has been making inroads into strategic areas.

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"Now we are going to see more battles in the countryside of Aleppo, and Aleppo itself, in the countryside of Damascus, and the countryside of Homs … including those areas where you have a lot of mixed population: Ismaili, Shia, and Christian," said Rabil. "The conflict has become deeply sectarian."

There have been reports that military intervention from Iran and Hezbollah has turned the tide in favor of the Assad regime. Rabil says Iran has a strategy in the Middle East and it doesn't want regional powers to dictate their politics.

"Given that in its history and its very modern history ... it would like to have a say in the politics of the region and in order to do that, it needs to have allies in an axis," said Rabil.

Rabil said if he was advising President Barack Obama and his administration, he would tell them to give the opposition sophisticated weapons and to include allies such as Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and make sure they work in concert with the leadership of the United States.

"It's an attrition war," said Rabil. "What you need to do now is try to exhaust and always leave the door open for a negotiated settlement."

Rabil said he does not want to see American troops on the ground in Syria, but the United States should take a more indirect approach such as working with Jordanian intelligence.

"If we are so worried about the weapons going into the wrong hands, how about if we speak with Salim Idriss, the head of the Free Syrian Army, and tell him, 'listen, embed certain Jordanian intelligence officers in your armed forces,'" Rabil said.

Rabil said the United States should continue to deal with Iran with caution, despite the election of a new president, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric and the country's former top nuclear negotiator.

"Obama said that he is engaged, he is not going to allow Iran to acquire weapons," said Rabil. If Iran's new president is going to make a change, it will be in "in slowing the program so as not to provoke confrontation with the West. I don’t think he's going to forsake or relinquish the program."

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