ACTiON ALERT: Will US Send Rockets to Al Qaeda via Syria?
April 14, 2014
Just Foreign Policy & Associated Press & The Guardian & Syria Comment
On March 28, AP and other media reported that under pressure from Saudi Arabia, the US was considering allowing shipments of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, or "manpads," to Syrian rebels. These weapons can be used to shoot down civilian aircraft. In Syria, these dangerous weapons could wind up in the hands of Al Qaeda. While US officials previously ruled out send manpads to Syria, a senior US official reportedly said "it was being considered anew."
ACTION ALERT: Urge Congress and President Obama
To Block the Sending of Manpads to Syria
Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, and Megan Iorio / Just Foreign Policy
ACTION ALERT: Sign our Petition at MoveOn
On March 31, a State Department spokeswoman said that there had been no change in the US position, and that the US had not discussed the issue with Saudi Arabia. (2)
Unfortunately, when it comes to CIA "covert" actions, US officials sometimes publicly deny things that they are in fact doing or thinking of doing. And once these actions start, they are very difficult to stop.
If President Obama were to approve the supply of manpads to Syrian rebels, he would violate several international antiterrorism agreements that prohibit the supply of manpads to non-state actors. This would put air travelers at risk and destroy the international anti-terrorism norm against supplying manpads to non-state actors. In the past, weapons transferred to "moderate rebels" in Syria have wound up in the hands of jihadists so extreme that they got kicked out of Al Qaeda. (3)
Urge Congress and President Obama to block the sending of manpads to Syria by signing and sharing our petition.
Saudi Arabia: Obama Seeks to Ease Backlash over Syria
US president said to be considering sending air defence systems to Syrian rebels following discussion with King Abdullah
Associated Press & The Guardian
(28 March 2014) -- The United States is considering allowing shipments of portable air defence systems to Syrian rebels, as president Barack Obama sought to reassure Saudi Arabia's king that the US is not taking too soft a stance over the conflict.
The president and King Abdullah met for more than two hours at the monarch's desert oasis outside the capital city of Riyadh. Obama advisers said the two leaders spoke frankly about their differences on key issues, with the president assuring the king that he remains committed to the Gulf region's security.
Saudi officials have grown particularly concerned about what they see as Obama's tepid response to the Syrian civil war and have pressed the US to allow them to play a direct role in sending the rebels the air defence systems known as manpads.
While administration officials have previously ruled out that option, a senior official said it was being considered anew, in part because the US has developed deeper relationships with the rebels over the past year.
US-Saudi relations became strained last autumn when Obama decided against launching a military strike on Syria, choosing instead to back a plan to strip Syrian president Bashar Assad of his chemical weapon stockpiles. US officials say the relationship has improved since, with both sides making an effort to coordinate more closely their efforts to halt the Syrian conflict.
"We are in a better place today than we were seven months ago," said Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes.
Obama Approval of Manpads for Rebels Would Violate US Agreements, Policy, and Endanger Airliners
James McMichael / Syria Comment
(March 29, 2014) -- President Obama is considering supplying Syrian rebels with Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (Manpads). These antiaircraft missiles are small enough to be carried and fired by a single person; they can destroy jet fighters and civilian airliners alike.
If President Obama gives his approval for their supply to Syrian rebels, he will violate several international antiterrorism agreements that prohibit the supply of Manpads to non-state actors. This will negate a decade of US anti-terrorism diplomacy, put air travelers at risk, and destroy the growing international anti-terrorism norm against supplying Manpads to non-state actors.
Reuters reports that on February 18 a senior Obama administration official said that the administration "remains opposed to any provision of MANPADS to the Syrian opposition" and Reuters reports further that: "The United States has long opposed supplying rebels with anti-aircraft missiles due to concern they may fall into the hands of forces that may use the weapons against Western targets or commercial airlines."
On March 28, one of President Obama’s national security advisers said: "We have made clear that there are certain types of weapons, including Manpads, that could pose a proliferation risk if introduced into Syria."
Those concerns that Manpads supplied to "moderate" rebels will find their way into the hands of terrorists are extremely well founded. Saudi Arabia purchased Croatian antitank weapons and grenade launchers that were then provided to the "moderate" Free Syrian Army.
As documented with video evidence by the Brown Moses Blog, some of those weapons wound up in the hands of the extremist jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham, and McClatchy Newspapers confirmed that the FSA shared their new weapons with Ahrar al-Sham.
Even worse, as documented with photographic evidence by the Brown Moses Blog, those Saudi-purchased Croatian weapons are now being used in Iraq against the Iraqi Army by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a group so savage that it has been expelled from al-Qaeda.
Manpads can be hidden in a car trunk, some even in a golf bag, and are a threat to civilian airliners all over the world. A 2011 US State Department factsheet states that: "Since 1975, 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by Manpads, causing about 28 crashes and more than 800 deaths around the world."
Former CIA Director David Petraeus recently said: "As you know, that was always our worst nightmare, that a civilian airliner would be shot down by one [Manpad]." Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the Wall Street Journal: "There is no question when you start passing Manpads around, that becomes a threat, not just to military aircraft but to civilian aircraft." Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "No threat is more serious to [civil] aviation" than Manpads.
The State Department factsheet describes a decade of US diplomatic efforts to stop the supply of Manpads to "non-state actors", which includes the Syrian rebels, and three international agreements resulting from that US diplomacy and to which the US is a party:
First, in 2003 the G-8 adopted a "G-8 Action Plan" titled "Enhance Transport Security and Control of Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (Manpads)" which provides:
[W]e agree to implement the following steps to prevent the acquisition of Manpads by terrorists: . . .
To ban transfers of Manpads to non-state end-users; Manpads should only be exported to foreign governments or to agents authorised by a government.
The State Department factsheet boasts that this G-8 agreement was "US-initiated."
Second, a 2003 agreement pursuant to the Wassenaar Arrangement, which regulates exports of conventional arms, provides:
Decisions to permit Manpads exports will be made by the exporting government by competent authorities at senior policy level and only to foreign governments or to agents specifically authorised to act on behalf of a government.
The State Department factsheet says that the US "participates in the [Wassenaar Agreement] . . . to encourage international adherence to and effective implementation of these rigorous Manpads guidelines."
Third, the Organization of American States adopted a 2005 resolution titled "Denying Manpads to Terrorists: Control and Security of Man-Portable Air Defense Weapons" which resolves:
To urge member states to ban all transfers of Manpads and their essential components to non-state end users because Manpads should be exported only to foreign governments or to agents authorized by a government.
Note that all three of these US-sought international agreements ban supplying Manpads to any non-state users and permit supplying them only to governments. There is no exception for "good" non-state actors, and in fact the State Department fact-sheet says that the US strives to keep Manpads away from terrorists "and other non-state actors."
That is wise, because one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.
Finally, consider that Assad’s military has thousands of Manpads but, even now, he has not supplied them to Hezbollah, Hamas, the Kurdish rebels in Turkey, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, ISIS in Iraq, or to terrorists bound for Europe or the United States. If President Obama makes the wrong decision, he may change that.
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