Arab Nations Poised to Arm Syrian Rebels

But US worries about protracted civil war

By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 2, 2012 3:15 AM CST | Updated Mar 2, 2012 3:34 AM CST

(Newser) – Members of the Arab League signaled this week that they're about to arm Syrian rebels. But American officials fear that strategy will thwart their more cautious approach, and could fuel a bloody, protracted civil war. Saudi Arabia and Qatar aim to aid the opposition "as soon as they can," said a source, while Kuwait's parliament has called on the government to provide rebels with weapons. “People are more and more frustrated, and are coming to the conclusion that diplomatic efforts are not enough in light of continuing abuse by the regime," an Arab diplomat tells the Washington Post.

But Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman warned: "It's not clear to us that arming people right now will either save lives or lead to the demise of Assad's regime." Still, Arab leaders are convinced the US won't protest too much as they move ahead. “I don’t think anyone will stand up and scream” against weapons shipments, the Arab diplomat said. The opposition Syrian National Council has announced the formation of a defense council that will organize rebel forces under a single command. The changes come just as Syrian rebels have fled the Baba Amr district of Homs. The Red Cross hopes to move in trucks today to deliver much-needed food and medical supplies to Homs after a month-long siege, reports the BBC.

A masked Free Syrian Army officer, who defected from the Syrian Army, sits in a Free Syrian Army centre on March 1, 2012 in Qusayr. AFP PHOTO/ GIANLUIGI GUERCIA   (Getty Images)
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