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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Tracking the Issues: Arming the Syrian Opposition by Proxy

by Newsteam Staff
February 23, 2012

Protesters demonstrate against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Amman, Jordan, February 4, 2012. (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters)


The GOP candidates were questioned during Wednesday’s presidential debate about the United States’ role in Syria. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich advocated the use of  allies and other outside groups to arm the rebellion.

“Syria, is–has a leader that’s in real trouble. And we ought to grab a hold of that like it’s the best thing we’ve ever seen,” Romney said. He added that the United States should work with Saudi Arabia and Turkey “to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that’s needed to help the rebels inside Syria.”

Gingrich agreed that allies should assist the Syrian opposition. “We clearly should have our allies…covertly helping destroy the Assad regime. There are plenty of Arab-speaking groups that would be quite happy. There are lots of weapons available in the Middle East,” Gingrich said.

To see more about the candidates’ positions check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on Democracy Promotion in the Arab World.

Suggested Other Reading:

CFR fellows Elliott Abrams, Robert M. Danin, Ed Husain, and Micah Zenko discuss the U.S. policy options in Syria. Abrams calls for the arming and funding of the Syrian opposition forces, arguing that the fall of the Assad regime should be a U.S. policy goal, while Danin, Husain, and Zenko caution against arming the rebel forces given the lack of a united, coherent opposition.

Foreign Policy’s David Kenner says that the bloody six-year civil war fought against Hafez al-Assad, President Bashar al-Assad’s father, represents a cautionary tale for Syria’s modern-day rebels.

Liriel Higa, Contributing Editor

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