CIA Guiding Weapons to Syrian Rebels

Help for rebels balanced by fear of al-Qaeda getting weapons
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2012 8:29 AM CDT
CIA Guiding Weapons to Syrian Rebels
A Free Syrian Army fighter holds a rocket launcher during clashes with Syrian troops near Idlib, Syria, Friday, June 15, 2012.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are buying and funneling automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition, and even antitank weapons to Syrian rebels—and in the middle of that shadowy network, a small number of CIA officers are helping to coordinate who gets those weapons, reports the New York Times. The CIA has apparently had officers in southern Turkey for several weeks now, trying to get those weapons to Syrian rebels while keeping them out of the hands of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

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"CIA officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people," said one Arab intelligence official. The White House is debating whether to provide Syrian rebels with additional support, such as satellite imagery or information on Syrian troop movements, or even possibly helping rebels set up their own intelligence network. As for whether these weapons transfers are giving the rebels an edge, military analysts are split, reports the Times: "The rebels are starting to crack the code on how to take out tanks" says one, while another counters that the rebels' weapons are "peashooters" compared to the government's arms. (Read more Syria stories.)

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