Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New videos show more rebel groups in Syria have U.S.-made anti-tank missiles

    Wednesday, May 07, 2014   No comments

Advanced American-made anti-tank missiles can be seen in numerous videos posted by Syrian rebel groups over the weekend, an indication that what experts thought was a limited trial program to arm moderate pro-Western units recently has been expanded.

The trial program was revealed early last month when videos posted by the Hazem Movement, a rebel group with ties to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, showed a small number of TOW anti-tank missiles being fired at Syrian government targets. Experts who examined the videos concluded that the missiles likely had been supplied by Saudi Arabia after the United States approved transfer of the advanced weapons.

American officials have expressed concern for years that any weapons given to rebel allies not fall into the hands of Syria’s increasingly powerful Islamist rebel groups, many of which have significant ties to al Qaida and subscribe to its ideology. In January, the U.S. stopped deliveries of nonlethal aid and equipment to the Free Syrian Army after units affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an al Qaida-inspired group noted for its brutality, seized control of an FSA base that held American equipment.

Adding to the concerns is the close working relationship that so-called moderate rebels have developed with the Islamists. For example, Jamal Marouf, who commands the Syrian Revolutionary Front, which received a TOW system, told the British newspaper The Independent that he had no problem coordinating with the Nusra Front, al Qaida’s official Syrian franchise, and had even sent weapons to the group in the past.

“It’s clear that I’m not fighting against al Qaida,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “This is a problem outside of Syria’s border, so it’s not our problem. I don’t have a problem with anyone who fights against the regime inside Syria.”

Marouf told the paper that he had dispatched “a lot of weapons” to rebels fighting in Yabroud, where Nusra battled government troops before abandoning the city in March


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