Don’t worry. I’m sure these weapons will be going to the really nice rebels that John McCain assures us we can distinguish from all the naughty ones:
The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.
The arms shipments, which are limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked, began arriving in Syria at a moment of heightened tensions over threats by President Obama to order missile strikes to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack near Damascus last month. …
The latest effort to provide aid is aimed at supporting rebel fighters who are under the command of Gen. Salim Idriss, according to officials, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because part of the initiative is covert. Idriss is the commander of the Supreme Military Council, a faction of the disjointed armed opposition.
U.S. officials, speaking about the provision of nonlethal aid, said they are determined to increase the cohesion and structure of the rebel fighting units.
“This doesn’t only lead to a more effective force, but it increases its ability to hold coalition groups together,” said Mark S. Ward, the State Department’s senior adviser on assistance to Syria, who coordinates nonlethal aid to rebels from southern Turkey. “They see their leadership is having some impact.”
General Idriss, readers will recall, is the same rebel leader that has had a lot of trouble imposing his will on most of the “oppositionists,” as John Kerry referred to them in Congressional testimony. Foreign Policy offered a lot more detail on Idriss’ slipping grip on control earlier this month. One of Idriss’ factions within the FSA showed its moderate nature by posting a picture of the US Capitol building on its web site … in flames.
NBC News reported on Monday that even internally, the US military thinks Kerry has misrepresented the reality on the ground in Syria:
The FSA is by far the largest Syrian rebel force. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain have both estimated the total rebel force in Syria at around 100,000. They claim the hardcore Islamists — defined as members of two al Qaeda-affiliated groups waging war against Assad — account for only 10 to 15 percent of that total.
“Most of the groups battling against Assad are composed of Islamist fighters, but only a small minority could accurately be characterized as extremist,” a U.S. official told NBC News, speaking on background.
But a senior military official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, disagreed, claiming the percentage of radical Islamic fighters is “way higher than that,” when the definition is expanded beyond the membership of the al Qaeda affiliates. He said Pentagon officials estimate that extreme Islamist groups now constitute “more than 50 percent” of the rebel force, “and it’s growing by the day.”
If you think this all sounds strangely familiar, it’s because we’re working from the Libya playbook. How did that work out for us again?
Update: Just in case anyone forgets, the Jabhat al-Nusra remains the most effective force in the Syrian rebellion. What are they like? Er …
Jihadists who overran Syria’s ancient Christian town of Maalula last week forced at least one person to convert to Islam at gunpoint and executed another one, residents said Tuesday.
“They arrived in our town at dawn on Wednesday and shouted ‘We are from the Al-Nusra Front and have come to make lives miserable for the Crusaders,” an Islamist term for Christians, said a still frightened woman who identified herself as Marie.
She spoke to AFP in Damascus, where she was attending the burial with hundreds of others of three Christians from Maalula killed in last week’s fighting, the long line of mourners led by a brass band playing dirges.
“Maalula is the wound of Christ,” mourners chanted as they marched through the narrow streets of the capital’s ancient Christian quarter, their voices nearly drowned out by the rattle of automatic gunfire in honour of the dead.
Yes, I’m certain these lively fellows will never get their hands on American weapons so as to force other Christians into martyrdom, because we can tell the good guys from the bad guys so easily. Just like we did in Libya!