The US is sending missiles to Syrian rebels as part of a “pilot program” to strengthen the opposition, American media reveals. Addressing criticism the US is arming extremist militants, Washington claims its weapons will not “fall into the wrong hands.”
Washington’s new initiative aims to find out whether it can supply opposition forces in Syria with weapons without them falling into the hands of Islamist extremists, American officials told USA Today on condition of anonymity.
“They will try this first and see how it goes” before expanding it, said a former official. According to reports, rebel groups have already received anti-tank missiles, known as TOWs, which are specially designed to destroy tanks and pierce reinforced bunkers.
This latest move by the US comes as the head of the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Ahmad Al-Jarba, visits Washington to lobby for more support. Al-Jarba will push for Washington to supply rebel forces with anti-aircraft missiles, the New York Times reports.
In a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, Al-Jarba emphasized that his coalition was “moderate and inclusive.”
“The coalition’s goal is to build a pluralistic, civil state where the majority can live together with the minority in peace,” he said.
Washington has thrown its support behind the Syrian National Coalition, granting the body official foreign mission status in the US. The US government suspended the Syrian embassy, representing the Assad government, earlier in March. In addition, the White House has pledged an extra $27 million to helping the cause of the rebels in Syria.
However, Brian Becker of the anti-war ANSWER coalition, says this money will only go to help the spread of terrorism in the country.
“The opposition in Syria includes notorious terrorist forces and they have used terrorism, of course supported by the United States through proxy forces in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to finance it and arm them, but they have been carrying out terrorist actions,” the anti-war activist mentioned.
“The idea that there is a dichotomy between a good opposition and a bad opposition is just a myth in the face of rising public and media attention in the US about the nature of the terrorist organizations that are fighting the Assad government,” Becker concluded.