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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Syria: Who is the new FSA arms supplier?

from Syrian Revolution Digest, 6 Feb 2013:
How You Failed Syria!

How you failed Syria, let me count the ways: you abandoned her when her movement for democratic change was nonviolent. You let Assad violate her and kill her children. You turned your back on her children when they rushed to her rescue, and pretended you were unaware. You uttered words of sympathy and encouragement, and sent few blankets and tents to people who were at the mercy of mortars and MiGs, not only the elements. You tied her fortunes to complicated geopolitical agendas that are beyond her control or interest. You let her legitimate aspirations and her all too human and humanitarian needs be the last entry on a long list of objectives. What do you expect of her now? Would tell her she is wrong to hate you? Would you blame her should she implode? Do you really think she would care anymore?

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According to observations being reported by EAWorldview and Brown Moses, there are strong indications that the secular Free Syrian Army has recently been getting a significant supply of new weapons of types not possessed by the Assad regime, and so not captured weapons.

These new weapons appear to be going mainly if not exclusively to the "moderates", al Nursa and the the jihadist don't seem to have any.

These new weapons, which include advanced anti-tank weapons, recoilless rifles and RPGs, but not anti-aircraft missiles or MANPADS, are starting to have an effect on the battlefield and have played a big part in recent FSA advances on the ground, most notably in Damascus.

And it is these rapid fire advances on the ground that are driving this whole process at the international level including the latest flurry of big power "discussions" [jockeying for position] around the Syrian crisis, Brahimi's new leaks and the exodus of Russians from Syria.

This intelligence is being brought to you by a worldwide network of activists like Brown Moses, C. J. Chivers and James Miller that make it their business to study the images coming out of Syria and IDing the weapons being used by both sides and helping us understand what that information tells us about the struggle.

These weapons appear to come from the region of the former Yugoslavia, which is a good place to get advanced weapons that aren't easily traced back to you. The real source is any body's guess, which is why I wrote this particular diary, to report this news and give a place for those with time to speculate on who this new source is.

My vote is for Obama. The timing is right, its after the election. There's been rumors that Obama has been reassessing his options; he knows his 'do little' strategy hasn't been cutting it, it's actually allowed the jihadist to seize the initiative and Mali has shown where that can lead. Suddenly the Tuareg MNLA doesn't look that bad to the French. Finally there is the notable lack of MANPADS in this new supply, a signature phobia that I believe Obama picked up in Tel Aviv.

I don't necessarily think the US is supplying or even funding these new weapons acquisitions as there have been others among the "Friend of Syria" that have been willing and able for some time, but I do think this observed change on the battlefield indicates that Obama has removed some of his prohibitions against these weapons.

But before the speculation in the comments, comes the report. From EAWorldView we have this report:
Syria Analysis: Someone is Arming the Insurgents...and It's Working

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 10:19 | James Miller


In mid-January, prominent blogger Eliot Higgins, several journalists, and I noticed an influx in new weaponry into Syria, specifically in Daraa Province in the south. Higgins collected the videos in a blog post and came to a remarkable conclusion --- the weapons, which included several kinds of RPGs, recoilless rockets, and grenade launchers, were all designed,manufactured, and/or heavily used in the former Yugoslavia, and none of them are part of the Syrian military arsenal.

Someone --- a current player? a new one? --- was giving a big boost in weapons to the insurgents.

Since then, the Free Syrian Army has succeeded with a series of surprise attacks, capturing several towns, border crossings, and roads. They then repelled tank convoys, airstrikes, infantry invasions, and even paratroopers.

A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an M60 Recoilless Rifle in Busr al Harir on 17 January

In the last week, opposition fighters may have overrun nearly one-third of Daraa city. Regime convoys have rushed towards the city, apparently to turn back the surprise advance.

Once again, the insurgents have used weapons that were not made in Syria. In this video, a fighter holds a M79 Osa RPG:

In the following video, insurgents, firing from a bedroom, use a RBG-6 40mm grenade launcher to strike at an Assad military installation . The weapon was designed in South Africa, but this appears to be a weapon licenced by a company in Croatia:

The weapons are being brought in from outside Syria and put into the hands of Free Syrian Army units, rather than the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra or other factions distrusted by the international coalition supporting the opposition.

Eliot Higgins has now found evidence that the new weapons have made their way into Damascus, Hama Province, and Aleppo Province. This video shows an M79 rocket launcher in the Sheikh Saeed district, recently taken by insurgents, in the south of Aleppo city.

Higgins explains the significance of the military figure in the clip:

The man shown in the video is Colonel Abdul-Jabbar Mohammed Aqidi, reportedly the former commander of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo Province. He is now part of the recently- formed Supreme Military Council, acting as one of six representatives for the Northern Front.

Maybe more tellingly, he is one of two members of the armament committee for the Northern Front, with this video being one of a series from his recent visit to opposition forces in Aleppo.

On Monday, the insurgents launched an offensive against a military barracks in the north of Aleppo city. Though we did not see any weapons that were definitively obtained from outside Syria, the fighters brought a significant amount of firepower down on the barracks, with reports that they have captured the building.

The new offensives, and other insurgents attacks around the city, suggest that this is part of a new, coordinated strategy to hit Assad strongholds and weaken his hold on Syria's largest city.

Then there are the attacks on Damascus International Airport and the military bases that surround it. While other assaults have been beaten back, those of the past week have been relatively successful. Video shows an RPG-22 at the scene, in the hands of the Free Syrian Army:

While foreign weapons have been seen in Syria, we have not encountered them on this scale. All this suggests a new, organised, and well-funded effort is under way to ensure that "moderate" fighters are capturing territory and weakening the Assad regime.

It is too early to tell whether there are enough weapons to make a long-term impact. None of them be used as an effective counter to Assad's primary threat, his fighter jets. However, if this is an experiment to see a surge in armament makes a difference, the answer is clear.


Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria

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