The Wall Street Journal reports: Washington’s Arab allies, disappointed with Syria peace talks, have agreed to provide rebels there with more sophisticated weaponry, including shoulder-fired missiles that can take down jets, according to Western and Arab diplomats and opposition figures.
Saudi Arabia has offered to give the opposition for the first time Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads, and antitank guided missiles from Russia, according to an Arab diplomat and several opposition figures with knowledge of the efforts. Saudi officials couldn’t be reached to comment.
The U.S. has long opposed arming rebels with antiaircraft missiles for fear they could fall into the hands of extremists who might use them against the West or commercial airlines. The Saudis have held off supplying them in the past because of U.S. opposition. There was no indication of a change in U.S. policy and officials in Washington declined to comment on the plan.
The U.S. for its part has stepped up financial support, handing over millions of dollars in new aid to pay fighters’ salaries, said rebel commanders who received some of the money. The U.S. wouldn’t comment on any payments.
The focus of the new rebel military push is to retake the southern suburbs of Damascus in hopes of forcing the regime to accept a political resolution to the war by agreeing to a transitional government without President Bashar al-Assad.
But if the Manpads are supplied in the quantities needed, rebels said it could tip the balance in the stalemated war in favor of the opposition. The antiaircraft and Russian Konkurs antitank weapons would help them chip away at the regime’s two big advantages on the battlefield—air power and heavy armor. [Continue reading…]