This video posted online this summer by one group of Syrian rebels claims to show the first American tank to arrive in Syria. Such weaponry would, of course, make an enormous difference against Assad's largely Soviet and Russian equipped military. There's only one problem: the vehicle shown is not an American-supplied tank. It's rebel soldier armed with only an assault rifle tooling around a room on a tiny motorised scooter designed for children.
It's been more than three months since the Obama administration promised it would start shipping arms to the rebels -- and nearly three weeks since the regime of Bashar al-Assad crossed the United States' red line for intervention in the Syrian civil war by allegedly using chemical weapons to kill an estimated 1,400 civilians. So far, no guns for the opposition. And this lack of movement by the West to provide direct military aid to the Syrian rebels has not been lost on them.
The video is just a small reminder of how the Syrian rebel groups have grown increasingly cynical about constant talk from Washington saying that U.S. help to defeat the Assad regime is on the way, only to see that help fail to arrive.
"The feeling now is that this is really an orphaned revolution and that the regime will feel emboldened to continue its shelling of cities and towns around Damascus," Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, which has long favored American intervention in the conflict told Foreign Policy on Aug. 31. "Even after the Assad regime used chemical weapons that the entire planet opposes, the U.S. has yet to react."
While the U.S. was supposed to start shipping weapons to small, vetted groups of Syrian rebels earlier this summer, it has delayed shipment of the weapons due to concerns by the Obama administration that Assad's defeat will simply open the door to a civil war between the rebel groups. Some of the rebel factions are secular while some, like the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, are committed to establishing a Sunni Islamic state. Meanwhile, both secular and Sunni rebel organizations could end up fighting the Iranian and Syrian government backed Shia-Islamic terrorist group, Hezbollah that is based out of Lebanon.
"Syria is explosive, I think we currently have the makings of a very critical war between the Sunni and Shia, I think the challenge we face in terms of unfathomable violence has yet to come," Defense Intelligence Agency chief David Shedd said in July.
"I think there will be ongoing civil war for years to come" if Assad loses, added Shedd. "I would be most concerned about Lebanon falling" into that civil war.
Of course, if the rebels have to fight this war on tiny scooters, Assad doesn't have much to worry about.
John Reed reports on the frontiers of cyber war and the latest in military technology for Killer Apps.