Light arms supplied by the United States are flowing to “moderate” Syrian rebel factions in the south of the country and U.S. funding for months of further deliveries has been approved by Congress, according U.S. and European security officials.
The weapons, most of which are moving to non-Islamist Syrian rebels via Jordan, include a variety of small arms, as well as some more powerful weapons, such as anti-tank rockets.
The deliveries do not include weapons such as shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADs, which could shoot down military or civilian aircraft, the officials said.
The weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30, two officials said.
The apparently steady weapons flow contrasts with the situation last summer, when lethal U.S. aid to the Syrian rebels dried up for a time due to congressional reservations.
Yet, officials who support providing U.S. arms to the rebels acknowledge that this has not greatly increased U.S. expectations of victory by anti-Assad forces, whether moderate or militant.
“The Syrian war is a stalemate. The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad; the regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies… are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future,” said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst and sometime foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama.
Another recent development favorable to more moderate factions is that Kurdish groups that had been providing weapons and other aid financed by donors in the Gulf state of Qatar indiscriminately to both moderate and religious extremist rebel factions had greatly reduced their involvement in the arms traffic, one of the officials said.