Having forced through an amendment to the EU arms embargo, along with France, the UK looks set to start supplying Syrian Rebels with arms this summer – according to the FT: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a2040500-ca05-11e2-af47-00144feab7de.html#ixzz2V9WHnwMB
This is of course if the talks in Geneva fail (which I predict they will unless Assad can find a reasonable way out that can both save face and the lives of his top officials). The US and Russia have an interest in preventing the spread of the conflict – which threatens Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Iraq in multifaceted ways. The US, as seen from its lobbying of EU members to end the embargo, clearly wants to raise pressure on the Assad regime whilst avoiding another intervention in the region (less “leading from behind”, and much more old fashioned “leading by proxy”). But this raises the question of whether suppling arms is a good idea? Low grade arms, which Western Powers will move in just to keep the rebels able to fight, have the risk of endangering the Syria population more widely not just during the conflict, but also in any post-conflict scenario. There is also the risk that these weapons fall into the wrong hands and end up spreading throughout the Middle East and North Africa – risking potential blow back.
Alternatively, failing to intervene in any substantial way risks allowing Iran and Hizbollah a strategic advantage over the rebels, which will have equally poor consequences for the region. With the Syrian population stuck in the middle, Syria is undergoing a serious humanitarian crisis, large scale refugees crossing borders, economic crisis, a food security crisis … what this means is that we are in a highly precarious situation and the “Geneva 2” conference appears to be the most attractive way out. Interventions beyond this point will make the current crisis look like the “good old days”, and we will be forced to ponder the missed opportunities.