Syrian Rebels Get Missiles

Some Syrian rebel factions have obtained advanced portable antiaircraft weapons, according to rebels and regional officials, a development that could alter the Syrian war’s trajectory and fan U.S. concerns that such weapons could end up in the hands of anti-Western Islamist militias.

Video footage uploaded to the Internet earlier this week appears to show rebels in Aleppo using weapons that military experts and rebels say are heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles, the first documented instance in the conflict. Versions of the weapons—also known as man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads—have been smuggled into the country over the past two months through Turkey and to a lesser extent Lebanon, according to Syrian rebels and those who supply them arms through an “operations room” coordinated by regional governments.

“Northern Syria is awash with advanced antitank and antiaircraft weapons. The situation has changed very quickly,” a Syrian involved in coordinating weapons procurement with regional states said. The Manpad transfers weren’t sanctioned by the regional states that have armed and financed Syria’s rebels since early this year, he added.

On Wednesday, fighters said they downed a military helicopter in the town of Maarat al-Nouman, in the northern Idlib province, one of at least four helicopters and jets they say they have brought down across Syria this week. It couldn’t be determined how the craft were brought down. But the reported incidents, three of which are documented on videos but couldn’t be independently verified, appear to mark an increased pace over the roughly weekly downings reported in Syria since the summer.

U.S. officials oppose the introduction of such weapons in Syria, citing long-standing fears that they could wind up in the hands of anti-Western militias that could eventually use them against the U.S. and its allies, or sell them to terrorists. “Obviously, we are concerned about the proliferation of Manpads,” said a U.S. official.

The rebels in Aleppo who are depicted in the footage uploaded to the Internet this week are identified as members of the al-Salam and Hamza battalions, two of the relatively unknown divisions in a mushrooming insurgency. Rebels with the two largest fighting factions in Aleppo couldn’t identify the battalions in the videos, though they confirmed that Manpads acquired over the past two weeks had made their way into the city.

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have delivered arms and funds to rebel groups in Syria in a covert alliance since this spring. Further behind the scenes, the U.S. and European countries have provided logistics and intelligence aid. U.S. officials and others say they don’t believe the official sponsors are providing the controversial weapons, but rather that they are arriving through private smuggling and arms procurement networks.

“The way the money and supplies flow to these militias goes through so many channels,” said Malik al-Abdeh, an independent Syrian activist and writer, who has tracked the arms pipeline in hopes of developing a more accountable rebel structure. “It’s not like supplying one supermarket; its like supplying 100 million corner stores.”

For rebels locked in a three-month battle with regime forces in Aleppo, airstrikes have been the major setback. Syria’s regime forces had relatively free passage in the skies until this summer, and helicopter gunship attacks on rebel positions continue to be common. Antiaircraft weapons have the potential to give the rebels a decisive boost against regime air power, just as they did for fighters in Afghanistan who defeated the Soviet Union’s occupying army there in the 1980s. It could force the Syrian air force to work from higher altitudes, with implications for collateral casualties.

“Bashar al-Assad has gone further in violence by using MiG jets and now drops barrels filled with TNT,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday ahead of a meeting with Syrian opposition representatives in Paris. “The strikes are less accurate, since there are now weapons forcing them to fly higher.”

Most of the shoulder-fired missiles in rebel arsenals have come from Libya, smuggled into the country through the Turkish border without the official blessing of regional states or their Western backers, several rebel coordinators said.

Other shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, which these rebels identified as Russian-made Strela systems, have been supplied by militant Palestinian factions now supporting the Syrian uprising and smuggled in through the Lebanese border, they said. Syrian military defectors also say they have been able to buy some SA-7’s—a Russian-designed Manpad—from regime forces since the summer.

Lebanon’s government has said it cracked down on smuggling through its borders, which rebels concede have been sealed to weapons transfers for months, making the recent deliveries a rarity. Turkey has repeatedly denied any involvement in supplying or facilitating weapons transfers to rebels in Syria.

Though rebels say the systems had started arriving in the summer, it remains unclear exactly how many have reached Syria. U.S. officials say probably no more than a handful have slipped through over the past few months.

U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.

The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.

In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.

“We were told that we need to get our house in order on the ground, and that it wasn’t time yet,” said a rebel representative involved in the delivery.

WSJ

  • ” U.S. officials oppose the introduction of such weapons in Syria, citing
    long-standing fears that they could wind up in the hands of anti-Western
    militias that could eventually use them against the U.S…”

    According to this logic it’s ok to slaughter Middle Eastern civilians to protect yankee military!

    • 5thDrawer

      Yes … but considering that many of the ‘rebels’ initially wanted US-military to come and help them kill Assad people, and considering that weapons can be used on anyone at some point in time in the future – even against the people who are trying to help with feeding, construction, training and protecting those ‘rebel’ factions (see Afghanistan) – the basic logic isn’t bad or faulty.
      Not only the yankees, but most western powers now understand the meaning and use of ‘taquiya’ …

      • most western countries followthe Boss US,france wasalmost providing rebelswith advanced weapons USstopped them next day france said we wont, US wants the world to see how assad butchers helpless syrians, it only allows light weapons
        Syrian regime uses even cluster bombs now yet no action is  being taken by international community  other than Condemning( oh u die im sorry to hear that) 

        • Lebanon1o452

          wlak shou jeyeh min houran!!!! assad butchers helpless syrians and all those sunni terrorists from all over the world are innocent too!!!!; if your english was slightly better i would have said this is 5th drawer; oops maybe it is still her in hiding

      • Lebanon1o452

        come on, are you taking the bloggers here for idiots? or do you naively believe that anybody is helping somebody with feeding, construction, training or protection? for gods sake stop this heresy. When the west sends medical supplies they usually send useless medications that are only useful in western countries and which they over produced or medications that expired or they help in training to the use of weapons and to refine the techniques of killing and torturing, to improve methods of terrorism or to inject destructive atheist philosophies that would contaminate these primitive countries with social vuruses that the west is infested with leading to the destruction of these primitive societies hence better impregnation with terrorist philosophies

        • 5thDrawer

          In your case, ‘yes’ to the first question.

        • Lebanon1o452

          eh eh eh i wished you knew that none could more idiot than the one who considers others to be idiots eh; btw sorry to offend you 5thEinstein but that blog you provided us concerning the good deeds the colonising america is doing to arrierated states, like most if not all of your blogs, showed to us how intelligent you are; eh eh eh; i would say as intelligent as my toes and i am trying to be as polite and GENEROUS as i can; keep aside your honesty
          Further i can provide you with detailed explanation how i came to that conclusion in your case (this is my field of expertise and i do practise it on a daily basis) and i dare you to do the same for me; unless it was just one of your oral farts we are used to on this blog, rubbish to mean nothing just reflecting the mean nature of the creature behind

      • Lebanon1o452

        assad people = the syrian people

      • “… the ‘rebels’ initially wanted US-military to come and help them kill Assad people…”
        Actually that is incorrect, the majority of the Syrians opposing that butcher have stated quite CLEARLY they didn’t want foreign intervention. I am surprised you, of all people on here, would make such a ludicrous statement.

        • Btru2u

          THAT IS CORRECT. UNFORTUNATELY THE PRESIDENTIAL PUPPETS LET THEM DOWN.

        • 5thDrawer

          Previews are often inaccurate representations.
          I said ‘many’ (which you didn’t quote properly – propagandist’s method) … not, as you say, ‘majority’ … but possibly not a distinction to ‘some’ readers, I realize.
          I can also say NO SYRIAN CITIZENS wanted to become ‘terrorist rebel killer Anti-Assadists’ either, when they took to the streets to ask for some respect and democracy.
          But then, there are friendly folks here who will refute that too. They do not recognize babies shot through the head as being a reason to go from carrying banners to carrying guns. Or that torture-chambers can create different mind-sets.
          I stand on my statements.

  • ” U.S. officials oppose the introduction of such weapons in Syria, citing
    long-standing fears that they could wind up in the hands of anti-Western
    militias that could eventually use them against the U.S…”

    According to this logic it’s ok to slaughter Middle Eastern civilians to protect yankee military!

    • 5thDrawer

      Yes … but considering that many of the ‘rebels’ initially wanted US-military to come and help them kill Assad people, and considering that weapons can be used on anyone at some point in time in the future – even against the people who are trying to help with feeding, construction, training and protecting those ‘rebel’ factions (see Afghanistan) – the basic logic isn’t bad or faulty.
      Not only the yankees, but most western powers now understand the meaning and use of ‘taquiya’ …

      • most western countries followthe Boss US,france wasalmost providing rebelswith advanced weapons USstopped them next day france said we wont, US wants the world to see how assad butchers helpless syrians, it only allows light weapons
        Syrian regime uses even cluster bombs now yet no action is  being taken by international community  other than Condemning( oh u die im sorry to hear that) 

        • Lebanon1o452

          wlak shou jeyeh min houran!!!! assad butchers helpless syrians and all those sunni terrorists from all over the world are innocent too!!!!; if your english was slightly better i would have said this is 5th drawer; oops maybe it is still her in hiding

      • Lebanon1o452

        come on, are you taking the bloggers here for idiots? or do you naively believe that anybody is helping somebody with feeding, construction, training or protection? for gods sake stop this heresy. When the west sends medical supplies they usually send useless medications that are only useful in western countries and which they over produced or medications that expired or they help in training to the use of weapons and to refine the techniques of killing and torturing, to improve methods of terrorism or to inject destructive atheist philosophies that would contaminate these primitive countries with social vuruses that the west is infested with leading to the destruction of these primitive societies hence better impregnation with terrorist philosophies

        • 5thDrawer

          In your case, ‘yes’ to the first question.

        • Lebanon1o452

          eh eh eh i wished you knew that none could more idiot than the one who considers others to be idiots eh; btw sorry to offend you 5thEinstein but that blog you provided us concerning the good deeds the colonising america is doing to arrierated states, like most if not all of your blogs, showed to us how intelligent you are; eh eh eh; i would say as intelligent as my toes and i am trying to be as polite and GENEROUS as i can; keep aside your honesty
          Further i can provide you with detailed explanation how i came to that conclusion in your case (this is my field of expertise and i do practise it on a daily basis) and i dare you to do the same for me; unless it was just one of your oral farts we are used to on this blog, rubbish to mean nothing just reflecting the mean nature of the creature behind

      • Lebanon1o452

        assad people = the syrian people

      • “… the ‘rebels’ initially wanted US-military to come and help them kill Assad people…”
        Actually that is incorrect, the majority of the Syrians opposing that butcher have stated quite CLEARLY they didn’t want foreign intervention. I am surprised you, of all people on here, would make such a ludicrous statement.

        • Btru2u

          THAT IS CORRECT. UNFORTUNATELY THE PRESIDENTIAL PUPPETS LET THEM DOWN.

        • 5thDrawer

          Previews are often inaccurate representations.
          I said ‘many’ (which you didn’t quote properly – propagandist’s method) … not, as you say, ‘majority’ … but possibly not a distinction to ‘some’ readers, I realize.
          I can also say NO SYRIAN CITIZENS wanted to become ‘terrorist rebel killer Anti-Assadists’ either, when they took to the streets to ask for some respect and democracy.
          But then, there are friendly folks here who will refute that too. They do not recognize babies shot through the head as being a reason to go from carrying banners to carrying guns. Or that torture-chambers can create different mind-sets.
          I stand on my statements.

  • Btru2u

    HISTORY IS BEING SAVED AND FORWARDED. SHAME SHAME SHAME

  • Btru2u

    HISTORY IS BEING SAVED AND FORWARDED. SHAME SHAME SHAME