Syrian rebels feel abandoned, betrayed by U.S.

Syrian rebels feel abandoned, betrayed by U.S.

By , Washington Post

AL-BAB, Syria — As the Arab world’s bloodiest revolt continues to maim, kill and ravage lives on an ever-escalating scale, anti-American sentiments are hardening among those struggling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, in ways that could have profound consequences for the future of the country and the region in a post-Assad era.

America, once regarded by the Syrian opposition as a natural friend in its struggle for greater freedoms against a regime long at odds with the West, increasingly is being viewed with suspicion and resentment for its failure to offer little more than verbal encouragement to the revolutionaries.

In the nearly 17 months since Syrians first joined the clamor for change that swept the Middle East last year, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans have voted in elections, chosen new leaders and embarked, however messily, on democratic transitions.

Syria, by contrast, is hurtling ever deeper into an all-out conflict with no end in sight, “and all we get is words,” said Yasser Abu Ali, a spokesman for one of the Free Syrian Army battalions in the town of al-Bab, which lies 30 miles northeast of Aleppo.

The rebels say they don’t want direct military intervention in the form of troops on the ground. But they have repeatedly appealed for a no-fly zone similar to the effort that helped Libyan rebels topple Moammar Gaddafi last year and for supplies of heavy weapons to counter the regime’s vastly superior firepower, rebels and opposition figures say.

When the regime falls, as Ali assumes it eventually will, Syrians will not forget that their pleas for help went unanswered, he said.

“America will pay a price for this,” he said. “America is going to lose the friendship of Syrians, and no one will trust them anymore. Already we don’t trust them at all.”

It is not entirely accurate that the United States is doing nothing to help the Syrian opposition, nor is it clear what more it usefully could or should be doing, analysts say. A debate is raging within the Obama administration over whether it is prudent to step up support for the rebels now that the effort to promote a diplomatic solution through the United Nations has failed.

President Obama has already authorized the provision of nonlethal aid to the opposition, including communications and satellite equipment. The State Department has been reaching out to Assad opponents inside Syria with a view to identifying potential future allies and recipients of assistance.

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