Syria rebels get arms from abroad: opposition source

TUNIS Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:28am EST

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TUNIS (Reuters) - Western and other countries are turning a blind eye to weapons purchases by Syrian exiles who are already smuggling light arms, communications equipment and night vision goggles to rebels inside Syria, a Syrian opposition source said Friday.

Syrian opposition supporters were also trying to find ways to bring anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to the Free Syrian Army, which is composed mainly of Syrian soldiers who have defected and volunteer civilians, the source said.

"We are bringing in defensive and offensive weapons... It is coming from everywhere, including Western countries and it is not difficult to get anything through the borders," the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There is not a decision by any country to arm the rebels but countries are allowing Syrians to buy weapons and send them into the country."

Contacts were also ongoing to find ways to get retired Syrian officers into Syria to act as advisers in an effort to coordinate rebels fighting in a nearly year-old uprising against Bashar al-Assad's rule and to train civilian volunteers in how to use weapons that are being smuggled in.

The move is part of an effort to turn the Free Syrian Army, so far composed of rag-tag groups fighting in different parts of Syria with little ability to coordinate, into a unified force with a chain of command that can better fight Assad's forces.

"The focus of the Syrian National Council is to create a chain of command and organize the Free Syrian Army efforts and to create a central base," the source said.

"There are people already identified to be in charge of this (acting as advisors). There are lots of political discussions on this issue... These will be Syrians, former Syrian officers, retired, not a single non-Syrian."

Arab and Western powers have been divided over whether to formally arm Syria's rebels, with some concerned that such measures will only worsen the violence and suck in neighboring countries, with different governments backing different groups.

While the Free Syrian Army has been able to smuggle in weapons across porous borders, Syrian opposition figures attending a meeting of more than 50 nations said there was no formal foreign military support for the opposition so far.

The question of whether governments critical of Assad should arm the Syrian opposition has come into focus in recent days after the United States appeared to suggest it would not oppose the arming of the rebels if all diplomatic channels failed.

U.S. officials did not say if the United States would arm the rebels but suggested they would find ways to arm themselves.

"There will be increasingly capable opposition forces. They will from somewhere, somehow, find the means to defend themselves as well as begin offensive measures," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.


The news came as Western and Arab countries met to discuss the Syrian crisis in Tunis. Syria's main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) formally appealed to the "Friends of Syria" to arm the Free Syrian Army and to support all forms of popular resistance, as political efforts appeared deadlocked by Russian and Chinese vetoes in the U.N. Security Council.

"If the regime fails to accept the terms of the political initiative outlined by the Arab League and end violence against citizens, the Friends of Syria should not constrain individual countries from aiding the Syrian opposition by means of military advisers, training and provision of arms to defend themselves," the SNC said in a seven-point statement of demands to the international meeting in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

An Arab official told Reuters Friday that he did not expect any move by governments to arm the Syrian opposition, given divisions in its ranks. Formal support for the Syrian opposition was likely to be financial and humanitarian, he said.

"Those who want to arm are not waiting for aid," he said.

The increasing militarization of the Syrian uprising, which began peacefully but has descended into violence that has killed thousands of people, has caused significant unease among some Arab officials concerned about a slide into civil war.

"I think this will complicate matters further. Militarizing the opposition and the protests will create a complicated situation that might lead to a civil war and this is not wanted," deputy Arab League chief Ahmed Ben Helli told Reuters on the eve of the meeting Thursday.

(Writing by Lin Noueihed; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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1XslaveUSA wrote:
Many of the Shia Imams whilst often under house arrest, imprisoned but almost always oppressed by the dominant Sunni political leadership of the time, nevertheless supported the expansion of the Islamic empire led by the same heads of state who suppressed them and their followers. This support of Islam and a disregard for personal grievances and sectarian loyalties greatly impresses me. That is why, even though I support Iran I want the al-Assad Baathist Party regime in Syria to fall and then to be quickly dispatched to firstly the torments of the grave then to the Hell fire, a la Muammar al-Qaddafi, another enemy of Islam. Aside from the horrific news of the killing of more Syrian Muslims by their own government every day, the one thing that really is a source of great consternation to me is the stance of Iran. There is an old adage, “Politics makes strange bedfellows” this seemingly is applicable to the situation with the relationship between The Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria’s secular Baathist regime. Syria was the first Arab country to recognize the new Iranian Islamic government after the tyrannical Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979. In 1982 the Ayatollah Khomeini (may Allah be pleased with him) and the fledgling Iranian Revolutionary government stood by silently whilst the non-Muslim Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad massacred 10,000 people in the restive city of Hama in an effort to quell an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood. Iranian apologists assert that the nascent Iranian Revolutionary government was at the time too weak and fragile in 1982 to denounce the Baathist regime in Syria as it mercilessly slaughtered thousands of Muslims. Now 30 years later Bashar al-Assad, the son of the Hafez, is following in his godless father’s devilish footsteps by killing thousands of Muslims as the people of Syria courageously stand-up to demand freedom, justice, equity and dignity. Sadly, again Tehran is quiet as Muslims die in Syria. But, unlike 1982 the Iranians are a regional power with Syria as its client state. For Iran to stand with the oppressive Baathist regime in Syria as they kill dozens of Muslims daily is misguided and seems contrary to the Shia Islamic concept of justice. The Baathist Party are Arab nationalists, such an ideology is the anti-thesis of Islam. Some deluded people argue that Bashar al-Assad must stay in power because he is an adversary to Zionist Israel, but the reality is that the Islamists that take power after al-Assad and his cronies are dispatched to Hell will be even more acrimonious to the racist Zionists in Israel than the Syrian Baathists ever were. To support al-Assad and the Baathist regime in Syria is to be on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of justice. Since it is clear that the world community is going to turn a blinds eye to the murderous al-Assad regime and allow the killing to continue perhaps the only hope for the people of Syria is that an army of Islamist fighters can somehow mobilize and defeat the minions of Satan who are fighting under the command of Bashar al-Assad and the Baathist Party. The U.N impotently sits on its preverbal hands as the people of Syria are dying in the noble quest for freedom and democracy. It is time for the land of Syria to be cleansed, the al-Assad regime and the putrid Baath Party must be washed down the drain of history. The heroic Muslim warriors must, Allah Be Willing, free Syria from the al-Assad reign of godless tranny! In the Middle East as the flags of secularism are lowered (or torn down) the banners of Islam shall rise! Sadly because of sectarianism there is no unity amongst the Muslims. Those who foment sectarian strife are the enemies of Islam. The Sunni vs. Shia historical conflict is detrimental to Islam. All Muslims must earnestly strive for Islamic unity. Allah is The Greatest!

Feb 24, 2012 10:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
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