Sunday, 24 February 2013

Syrian Rebels Supplied Arms by the US and its allies

From the very beginning apprehensions were expressed that Syrian rebels were getting arms from outside. The critics also said that after demolishing Syrian regime ‑ which enjoys cordial relationship with Iran ‑ the next target will be Pakistan and then Iran would be attached.

Some of the critics attributed this to ‘provoking anti US sentiments’ and alleviating Pakistan’s stature. However, the time has proved that this belief was right and that the rebels are fighting proxy war of United Sates in Syria.

According to a report published in The Washington Post rebel advances in Syria are being fueled by an influx of heavy weaponry by outside powers. The new armaments, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, have been sent into the province of Daraa to support the groups fighting in the south.

The arms are the first heavy weapons known to have been supplied by outside powers to the rebels battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad against whom the uprising began two years ago. However, the rebels have remained mostly unsuccessful as the encounters spread over two years failed to yield any results.

According to The Washington Post, the officials declined to identify the source of the newly provided weapons, but they noted that those most closely involved in supporting the rebels’ campaign to oust Assad have grown increasingly alarmed at the soaring influence of Islamists over the fragmented rebel movement.

The supporters are believed to the United States and its major European allies, along with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two countries most directly involved in supplying the rebels. It is on record that security officials from those nations have formed a security coordination committee that consults regularly on events in Syria.

Although, the Obama administration continues to refuse to directly arm the rebels, the administration has provided intelligence assistance to those who are involved in the supplies, and it also helps vet opposition forces. Though US officials declined to comment on the new armaments but those who had followed uprising in Libya don’t rule out such an arrangement.  

It is believed that the objective of these renewed deliveries is to reverse the unintended effect of an effort last summer to supply small arms and ammunition to rebel forces in the north that was halted after it became clear that radical Islamists were emerging as the chief beneficiaries.

According to The Washington Post report Louay al-Mokdad, the political and media coordinator for the Free Syrian Army, confirmed that the rebels have procured new weapons donated from outside Syria, rather than bought on the black market or seized during the capture of government facilities, the source of the vast majority of the arms that are in the hands of the rebels. But he declined to say who was behind the effort.

Though, strict secrecy is maintained and even those receiving the weapons can’t say with certainty who is supplying these, it is widely assumed that the arms are being provided by Saudi Arabia, with the support of its Arab allies, United States and some European countries.

According to the report, despite full secrecy being maintained arms influx was publicized by Eliot Higgins, a British blogger who uses the name Brown Moses and who tracks rebel activity by watching videos rebel units post on YouTube.

In a series of blogs, he noted the appearance in rebel hands of new weapons that almost certainly could not have been captured from government arsenals. They include M-79 anti-tank weapons and M-60 recoilless rifles dating back to the existence of Yugoslavia in the 1980s that the Syrian government does not possess.

He also noted that most of the recipients of the arms appear to be secular or moderate Islamist units of the Free Syrian Army. In a sign of how organized the effort is, he said, one of the recent videos shows members of the local Fajr al-Islam brigade teaching other rebels how to use some of the new weapons.

The M-79 anti-tank weapons in particular appear to be giving the rebels new confidence to attack government positions and armor, said Jeff White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who says he also noted the unexpected appearance of the weapons in rebel videos several weeks ago.

The rebels have also been asking for anti-aircraft missiles to counter the government’s use of air power against their strongholds. But there has been no indication that they are acquiring those in significant quantities outside the few they have captured from government bases.

The real aim of the international effort is to provide the rebels with just enough firepower to pressure Assad into accepting a negotiated settlement but not enough to enable them to overthrow him.

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