The new mantra of the Obama Administration:
When at first you fail, fail, fail again…
U.S. and Western weapons have been reaching Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting to keep Bashar Assad’s forces in power in Syria.
Analysts say it’s unclear if the weapons were captured, stolen or bought on the black market in Syria, Turkey, Iraq or Libya. Propaganda photographs from Shiite militias posted on dozens of websites and Facebook pages show the weapons were acquired in new condition, said Phillip Smyth, an analyst for Jihadology.net, a site affiliated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Many of the weapons are things the militias “shouldn’t really have their hands on,” Smyth said. Iranians love to show “they have weapons and systems that are very close to the Americans.”
The ability of Assad’s allies to obtain U.S. weapons is one of many reasons the United States should not supply Syrian rebels with weapons, which President Obama said he would start to do last month, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Syria is “already overflowing” with weapons being supplied to the Assad regime and to the rebels “that could one day be turned against the U.S.,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
It’s “extremely difficult” to distinguish between friend and foe in Syria, she said, and “no amount of safeguards can guarantee that weapons will not fall into the wrong hands.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the administration has taken steps “to do everything possible to ensure that any aid is making its way into the right hands” in Syria. That is why the United States and its partners have agreed to direct military aid through the secular-leaning, anti-Assad Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council and its chief, Gen. Salim Idris.
Many of the U.S. weapons in the hands of pro-Assad militia could have reached the black market after a major U.S. sales to Iraq in 2009, said Christopher Harmer, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Almost 10 years of fighting there left thousands of loose weapons floating around Iraq and available for sale on the black market.
Of course, weapons from Iraq would not be new, or even near new in condition. We’ve seen multiple media reports talking about how jihadist factions are disbanding and/or conscripting secular groups and confiscating all their vehicles and arms. So even if the State Department “successfully” gives arms to a secular group, there is nothing to stop a group like the al-Nusrah Front from just taking the guns the very next day.
Case in point:
(Reuters) – Militants linked to al Qaeda in Syria killed a senior figure in the Western- and Arab-backed Free Syrian army on Thursday, an FSA source said, signaling a widening rift between Islamists and more moderate elements in the armed Syrian opposition.
Kamal Hamami, a member of the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, known by his nom de guerre Abu Bassel al-Ladkani, was meeting with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the port city of Latakia when they killed him, Qassem Saadeddine, a Free Syrian Army spokesman, told Reuters.
“The Islamic State phoned me saying that they killed Abu Bassel and that they will kill all of the Supreme Military Council,” Saadeddine said from Syria.
“He met them to discuss battle plans,” Saadeddine added.
The Free Syrian Army has been trying to build a network of logistics and reinforce its presence across Syria as the U.S. administration pledged to send weapons to the group after it concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons against rebel fighters.
While Free Syrian Army units sometimes fight alongside Islamist militant groups such as the Islamist State, rivalries have increased and al Qaeda-linked groups have been blamed for several assassinations of commanders of moderate rebel units.