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SyriaU.S. weapons shipped to moderate Syrian rebels after secret congressional approval

Published 28 January 2014

U.S. and European sources have confirmed that U.S.-manufactured light arm have been flowing to moderate Syrian rebels in the south of Syria, and that Congress has approved funding to continue the shipments for the next few months. The weapons, which are being delivered to the rebels through Jordan, include both light arms and heavier weapons such as anti-tank rockets. The shipments, however, do not include shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

U.S. and European sources have confirmed that U.S.-manufactured light arm have been flowing to moderate Syrian rebels in the south of Syria, and that Congress has approved funding to continue the shipments for the next few months.

The weapons, which are being delivered to the rebels through Jordan, include both light arms and heavier weapons such as anti-tank rockets. The shipments, however, do not include shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

Haaretz reports that Congress, behind closed doors, has agreed to fund to on-going shipments until 30 September, the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

The administration was ready to start the arms shipments late last summer, but congressional committees held up the plan for fears that the arms would not have a decisive effect on the battlefield, and that they may end up in the hands of Jihadist organizations.

The administration and members of Congress were persuaded that weapons sent to rebels operating in south Syria would be less likely to fall into the wrong hands because of the sway Jordan holds in that area.

Haaretz notes that the funding approval for the weapons delivery was contained in classified sections of defense appropriations legislation. An unclassified defense funding measure passed Congress in late December.

Officials acknowledge that arms shipments notwithstanding, the United States does not expect the rebels to defeat the regime forces.

The Syrian war is a stalemate. The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad; the regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies… are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future,” said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and sometime foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama.

Military analysts note that recently, moderate rebels have consolidated their control of large areas in south Syria, where they have won several pitched battles against Jihadist militias. Moderate forces have been engaged in a broader campaign to clear the south of elements linked to al-Qaeda.

Moderate forces have also been helped by the fact the Kurdish groups which used to sell weapons to Jihadist elements are no longer doing so, making the task of the moderate rebels a bit easier.

The Jihadist organizations, though, are in control of several areas in north and east Syria.

The United States and Britain suspended non-lethal aid to moderate rebels in northern Syria in December after Islamist fighters captured warehouses containing weapons and supplies shipped to Western-backed rebels.

We hope to be able to resume assistance to the SMC [Supreme Military Command, the umbrella organization of the moderate rebels] shortly, pending security and logistics considerations,” said an official. “But we have no announcements at this time.”