The Syrian rebel government scored a major victory on Tuesday night when the Obama administration formally threw its support behind the coalition. This doesn't mean we'll be sending them weapons anytime soon, though. And peace in the region is just as far away as it was a few days ago, when the Assad regime was arming its nerve gas-filled bombs, bombs that it's ready to drop on its own people.
Don't get us wrong, though. Obama's support for the Syrian opposition is a big move or, to use the president's words, a "big step" for this country's involvement in the two-year conflict. "We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama told Barbara Walters on ABC News. "So we will provide them recognition and obviously with that recognition comes responsibilities on the part of that coalition. It is a big step." Obama stopped short of suggesting a Libya-style no-fly zone, much less any type of military intervention.
Obama's showing of support is a tremendous gesture for Libyan rebels, though. Not only does it boost the morale of those fighting the Assad regime, but it also sends a strong message to Assad himself that the United States is ready to be an enemy. Although Obama's words don't grant the rebel coalition the legal power of an independent state, they do provide the west with a unified opposition to support or rally behind in an international intervention. The United States joins the Gulf Cooperation Council, France, Turkey and Britain in formally recognizing the council, and Britain, at least, is already talking about a military intervention.
Inevitably, there's more that we could be doing. Short of sending troops to Damascus, the U.S. could throw its legal and political support behind the Syrian rebels. Anything less than that is a sort of a quick fix. "It's more of a political shot in the arm for the Syrian opposition," says Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute and an expert on Syria. "And it's hoped that by doing that, it will straighten their backs and strengthen them and encourage them to come together and work together more effectively."