Washington Unmasks Plans to Arm Syrian Militants With MANPADS to ‘Get the Russians to Back Off’

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Washington Unmasks Plans to Arm Syrian Militants With MANPADS to ‘Get the Russians to Back Off’

A rebel fighter of ‘Al-Sultan Murad’ brigade arranges weapons inside a warehouse in the northern Syrian rebel-controlled town of al-Rai, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, September 26, 2016. © Khalil Ashawi / Reuters

There is a possibility that “Gulf states” [after the US authorization, for sure] might arm Syrian rebels with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, US officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to the report, the US has kept high numbers of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) out of Syria by uniting Western and Arab allies behind sending training and infantry weapons to moderate opposition groups. However, now, when the ceasefire is collapsed, the US Middle Eastern allies may sooner or later silently agree to wealthy individuals supplying MANPADS to militants in Syria.

“The Saudis have always thought that the way to get the Russians to back off is what worked in Afghanistan 30 years ago – negating their air power by giving MANPADS to the Mujahideen,” Reuters cited an unnamed US official. “So far, we’ve been able to convince them that the risks of that are much higher today because we’re not dealing with a Soviet Union in retreat, but a Russian leader [Putin] who’s bent on rebuilding Russian power and less likely to flinch.”

Another anonymous administration official told Reuters that “The opposition has a right to defend itself and they will not be left defenseless in the face of this indiscriminate bombardment.”

The official noted that some US “allies and partners” have been involved in the US-Russia talks on Syria:

“We don’t believe they will take lightly to the kind of outrages we’ve seen in the last 72 hours.” However, the official refused to comment on “the specific capability that might be brought into the fight.”

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