New details have emerged regarding the flow of weapons from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the Free Syrian Army. These supplies were reportedly cut off by the United States after videos surfaced in March, 2013 showing Islamist fighters in Syria bearing anti-tank weapons that had been provided by Saudia Arabia.
See Liz Sly (Beirut), “Iran emerging as victor in Syrian conflict,” Washington Post, June 11, 2013 (updated June 12 at 8:47 AM).
Sly reported the following:
Iran has provided advice, money and arms to Assad’s regime, but the manpower needed to bolster his forces, flagging after two years of trying to contain the revolt, has come from Hezbollah, which was founded in the 1980s with help from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and has become Lebanon’s leading military and political force.
Supporters of the Syrian opposition contrast the hesitancy of the U.S. administration in offering arms to the outgunned, poorly trained and deeply divided rebels with the commitment that Iran has shown to its Damascus ally.
“Hezbollah is part of the Iranian strategy,” Mohammad Obaid, a Lebanese political analyst with close ties to Hezbollah, said. “This counts as a victory for the group of Iran, Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah against the group backed by the United States.” (emphasis added)
One way in which Saudi Arabia could influence the outcome is by facilitating unchecked supplies of arms to the rebels, analysts say. Although the umbrella Free Syrian Army has received small quantities of weaponry from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the past year, the United States has sought to control the flow, vetting the recipients and restricting the caliber of the weapons provided. (emphasis added)
After videos surfaced in March of Islamist groups wielding antitank weapons funneled across the Jordanian border by Saudi Arabia, the United States imposed a freeze on all further deliveries, putting the rebels at a disadvantage just as Iran, through Hezbollah, was gearing up to rejuvenate the Assad regime’s army with reinforcements, according to rebel leaders (emphasis added).
Sly’s account of the tight control exercised by the U.S. over these covert arms shipments, including even the calibre of weapons being shipped, sounds exactly like the kind of intellectual approach President Obama brings to the table in deciding foreign policy issues.
The reported U.S. cut-off of the covert supply of arms to the Free Syrian Army after March would help explain why the rebels have faltered in recent weeks, and again reveals the hand of an intellectual strategist with no combat or military operations experience.
These revelations suggest the need for much bolder action by the U.S. and its allies, with the kind of urgency that will put weapons in insurgents’ hands now, before they are crushed, while they still have a chance to use them.
Whether the supply of weapons to the insurgents might be sufficient to reverse al-Assad’s current momentum is a separate question.
The Trenchant Observer