U.S. begins shipping arms for Syrian rebels

The Wall Street Journal reports: The Central Intelligence Agency has begun moving weapons to Jordan from a network of secret warehouses and plans to start arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, expanding U.S. support of moderate forces battling President Bashar al-Assad, according to diplomats and U.S. officials briefed on the plans.

The shipments, related training and a parallel push to mobilize arms deliveries from European and Arab allies are being timed to allow a concerted push by the rebels starting by early August, the diplomats and officials said, revealing details of a new covert plan authorized by President Barack Obama and disclosed earlier this month.

The CIA is expected to spend up to three weeks bringing light arms and possibly antitank missiles to Jordan. The agency plans to spend roughly two weeks more vetting an initial group of fighters and making sure they know how to use the weapons that they are given, clearing the way for the first U.S.-armed rebels to enter the fight, diplomats briefed on the CIA’s plans said.

Talks are under way with other countries, including France, about pre-positioning European-procured weapons in Jordan. Saudi Arabia is expected to provide shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, known as Manpads, to a small number of handpicked fighters, as few as 20 at first, officials and diplomats said. The U.S. would monitor this effort, too, to try to reduce the risk that the Manpads could fall into the hands of Islamists.

Up to a few hundred of the fighters will enter Syria under the program each month, starting in August, according to diplomats briefed on CIA plans. [Continue reading...]

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