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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The shadowy flow of US weapons into Syria -- By Lisa Lundquist, The Long War Journal

For the past few years, and almost since the start of the civil war in Syria, the US has been quietly attempting to support the Syrian opposition by supplying aid to "vetted," supposedly moderate rebel groups. The operation, which is run by the CIA and relies on partnerships with US allies including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar, has been cloaked in secrecy and rarely surfaces in the news media.

As extremist groups such as the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), an al Qaeda offshoot, rose to dominance among the rebels over the past two years, other rebel groups also have emerged, most notably the Islamic Front, a large Islamist coalition that fights alongside Al Nusrah, and also the Syrian Revolutionaries' Front, a smaller, supposedly more moderate rebel group.

At the outset, some basic questions arise: Why is there such secrecy as to which groups are being supplied with Western aid, including weapons? If they are legitimate, shouldn't they be recognized as such? In Syria, a country roughly the size of Washington State, fighting has raged for over three years now; isn't it becoming impossible to find "moderate" rebel groups that have not reached an accommodation, if not outright collaboration, with the Islamist forces that are dominating the rebel ranks? And finally, if the groups consist of Islamist extremists who are linked with al Qaeda or fight alongside them, how can the provision of such weapons be justified, and what is the plan if the extremists prevail in Syria?

These questions should be borne in mind when looking at recent developments involving the provision of Western aid to rebel groups in Syria.

 On April 11, The New York Times ran a front-page article featuring the commander of the "moderate Islamist" Yarmouk Brigade, which has fought alongside Al Nusrah, complaining about the paltry flow of US weapons to the rebels. The Times article mentioned "an 'operations room' in Amman staffed by agents from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United States," called the Military Operations Command, where rebels solicit and receive weapons and funding. Amman, the Jordanian capital, lies a mere 50 miles south of the Syrian border.
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