CIA Has Begun Arming Rebels in Syria

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 12 2013 9:39 AM

CIA Has Begun Arming Rebels in Syria

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Rebel fighters prepare explosive devices to be used during fighting against Syrian government forces on September 7, 2013 in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor

Photo by Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty Images

The Washington Post with the scoop:

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.
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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.

In addition to the small arms, the United States is also shipping other types of nonlethal gear to the opposition, including vehicles, high-tech communications equipment and advanced combat medical kits. The aid, according to the paper, is largely being directed at those rebel fighters who are under the command of Gen. Salim Idriss, who is the leader of the Supreme Military Council, one faction among many in the disjointed armed opposition. More over at WaPo. Meanwhile, some rebel fighters say that the aid is largely symbolic and isn't nearly enough to change the course of the 2 1/2 year civil war. "It won't change anything," Abu Abdullah, a Free Syrian Army rebel commander based in northern Syria, told USA Today on Thursday. "What we have gotten is not enough."

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.