The CIA Is Now Shipping Weapons to Syrian Rebels

Three months after President Obama authorized the order, Syrian rebels have received their first shipment of weapons from the CIA. According to the Washington Post, the deliveries of light, “trackable” weapons began two weeks ago, along with vehicles, communications equipment and other non-lethal aid from the State Department.

The shipments, reportedly sent to rebel fighters under General Salim Idriss of the Supreme Military Faction, aren't exactly the antitank and antiaircraft weapons opposition forces were hoping for, but, as one opposition official told the Washington Post, “it's better than nothing.” Rebels are also hoping to receive shipments of body armor and night-vision goggles.

Other rebel officials seemed unimpressed by the shipments. “The Syrian Military Council is receiving so little support that any support we receive is a relief,” Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian Opposition Coalition, said. “But if you compare what we are getting compared to the assistance Assad receives from Iran and Russia, we have a long battle ahead of us.”

The months-long delay in delivering the weapons was caused, in part, by logistical problems and the fear of shipments falling into the hands of extremists; to deliver the weapons, the CIA is using secret bases in Turkey and Jordan, and previous shipments of non-lethal aid were hampered by logistical challenges to the point that US officials have admitted they were delivered to rebels in the most easily accessible areas, not the ones in the most need.

The CIA report comes just hours after the New York Times published an op-ed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, arguing against US military intervention in Syria.

From the op-ed:

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

Earlier this week, Syria announced plans to surrender their chemical weapons, in part because of an off-hand comment Secretary of State John Kerry made during a press conference. In his speech Tuesday night, President Obama said the strike on Syria was on hold in favor of diplomacy, though he emphasized that a "targeted strike" remains an option.

[Image via AP]

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