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Friday, 21 June 2013 20:08

US Senators Stunned by Syrian Army's "Dramatic" Advance

A bipartisan trio of key US senators expressed surprise at the rapid and "dramatic" advances recently made by the Syrian army, cautioning President Barack Obama that arming the rebels would not do much to help them.

Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Carl Levin and Republican John McCain said in a joint letter to Obama that government forces are advancing so dramatically that providing weapons to the opposition alone is unlikely to shift the war back in the rebels' favor.

The administration last week authorized lethal aid to the rebels, although the US had long been both directly sending arms and facilitating Saudi and Qatari-procured arms cargos to the rebels.

Yet, the senators are now asking the US to enforce a no-fly zone and start direct military intervention in Syria.

The senators said the US should consider targeting regime airfields, runways and aircraft, and help rebels establish safe zones in Syria.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011 with organized attacks by well-armed gangs against Syrian police forces and border guards being reported across the country.

The US and its western and regional allies have long sought to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling system. Media reports said that the Syrian rebels and terrorist groups have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States.

The US daily, Washington Post, reported in May that the Syrian rebels and terrorist groups battling Assad's government have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States.

The newspaper, quoting opposition activists and US and foreign officials, reported that Obama administration officials emphasized the administration has expanded contacts with opposition military forces to provide the Persian Gulf nations with assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure.

Opposition activists who several months ago said the rebels were running out of ammunition said in May that the flow of weapons - most bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military in the past - has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month.

On Monday, NATO and a number of European governments, most significantly the UK, started airlifting heavy weapons to the Syrian rebels poised in Aleppo to fend off a major Syrian army offensive.

They disclose that the first shipments were landed Monday night, June 17, and early Tuesday in Turkey and Jordan.

They contained anti-air and tank missiles as well as recoilless 120 mm cannons mounted on jeeps. From there, they were transferred to rebel forces in Southern Syria and Aleppo in the Northwest, Debkafile's exclusive military sources reported.

The sources report that the first weapons reached rebel-held positions in Aleppo early Tuesday.

The hardware for the rebels is coming in from three sources of NATO stores in Europe, the Libyan black market, and the Balkan black market, chiefly Serbia and Montenegro.

On Sunday, a report said that the US spy agency is gearing up to send weapons to insurgent groups in Syria through secret bases in Turkey and Jordan.

The bases are expected to begin conveying shipments of weapons and ammunition within weeks, the US daily, The Washington Post, reported Saturday, quoting unnamed American officials as saying.

"We have relationships today in Syria that we didn't have six months ago," US President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes said during a White House briefing Friday. The United States is capable of delivering material "not only into the country," Rhodes said, but "into the right hands".

US officials announced on Thursday that Obama had authorized sending weapons to the militants in Syria 'for the first time.'

On Saturday, American newspaper USA Today quoted Christopher Harmer, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, as saying that the US is vetting to use Turkey's Incirlik Air Base, which is technically a NATO air base, as a hub for supplying militants in Syria with weapons.

Also on Sunday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that the US troops temporarily in neighboring Jordan will leave behind fighter jets and a cache of Patriot missiles.

Early in March, a ranking member of the US marine troops deployed in Afghanistan told FNA that the Pentagon made the decision to send a major part of its light and semi-heavy weapons systems and military equipment to the Syrian rebels along with its pullout from Afghanistan when the former US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, was still in office.

"The decision to send our arms and weapons systems in Afghanistan to the rebel groups in Syria was originally made when the former US Secretary of Defense was in his final days of office, yet the Pentagon has also received the approval of the new Secretary, Chuck Hagel, as well," said the source who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of his information.

"One of these cargos consists of the light and semi-heavy military tools, equipment and weapons that the US army has gathered and piled up in Kandahar Base and plans to send them to the rebels in Syria in the form of several air and sea cargos and through Turkey and specially Jordan," he explained.

"These weapons and arms systems include anti-armor and missile systems, rocket-launchers and rockets and tens of armored Humvees," the source added, explaining that senior war strategists in the Pentagon believe that they can change the scene of the war in Syria in the interest of the rebel groups with the help of these cargos, specially the shoulder-launched missile systems and the multipurpose Humvee vehicles.

The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly known as the Humvee, travels as fast as 150 kilometers per hour under different weather conditions and in various geographical climates, and various types of machineguns, rocket-launchers and weapons systems can be mounted on this vehicle.

As the US continues its pullout from Afghanistan, rebels in Syria have failed to make any more advancement and the US, EU, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were forced to soften their tone on the future of the almost two-year-long conflict in the country after they found that the war of attrition has rather worked in the interest of President Assad and his troops.

This, military experts say, has apparently made the US change the war strategy in Syria and open new fronts in the country.

The US and its allies have been sending most of their arms cargos to the rebels through Turkey, which neighbors Northern Syria. Just last week a Libyan member of the al-Qaeda disclosed that France has supplied the rebel and terrorist groups in Syria with Russian Igla anti-air missiles and even trained them how to use these systems.

Louay al-Mokdad, the political and media coordinator for the Free Syrian Army, confirmed that the rebels have procured new weapons donated from outside Syria, rather than bought on the black market or seized during the capture of government facilities. But he declined to say who was behind the effort.

Another coordinator for the Free Syrian Army, whose units have received several cargos of these new arms supplies since in mid-February, said "the goal of the supplies also is to shift the focus of the war away from the North toward the South and the capital, Assad's stronghold".



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