Photo: Stephen Stewart via Dvidshub
The Obama administration has decided to launch a covert operation to send heavy weapons to Syrian rebels, Christina Lamb of The Sunday Times of London reports.Diplomatic sources told the Sunday Times that the U.S. “bought weapons from the stockpiles of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.”
The heavy arms include mortars, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and the controversial anti-aircraft heat-seeking SA-7 missiles, which are integral to countering Bashar Al-Assad’s bombing campaign.
Many have suspected that the US was already involved in sending heavy arms.
The administration has said that the previously hidden CIA operation in Benghazi involved finding, repurchasing and destroying heavy weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, but in October we reported evidence indicating that U.S. agents — particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens — were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist Syrian rebels.
There have been several possible SA-7 spottings in Syria dating as far back as early summer 2012, and there are indications that at least some of Gaddafi’s 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles were shipped before now.
On Sept. 6 a Libyan ship carrying 400 tons of weapons for Syrian rebels docked in southern Turkey. The ship’s captain was “a Libyan from Benghazi” who worked for the new Libyan government. The man who organised that shipment, Tripoli Military Council head Abdelhakim Belhadj, worked directly with Stevens during the Libyan revolution.
Stevens’ last meeting on Sept. 11 was with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi “to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.”
Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that the State Department presence in Benghazi “provided diplomatic cover” for the now-exposed CIA annex. It follows that the “weapons transfer” that Stevens negotiated may have involved sending heavy weapons recovered by the CIA to the revolutionaries in Syria.
The newest report comes days before the U.S. is expected to recognise the newest Syrian coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The State Department has also indicated it will soon name the opposition’s highly effective al-Nusra Front a “terrorist organisation” for its ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
Both of these stipulations — recognition of a unified opposition and creation of distance from extremists — are pivotal in order for the Obama administration to openly acknowledge supporting Syrian rebels with heavy weapons.
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