Obama mulls sending anti-air systems to Syria rebels

Obama mulls sending anti-air systems to Syria rebels
Sat Mar 29, 2014 16:49:31

US President Barack Obama is reportedly considering to authorize the shipment of new anti-aircraft systems to foreign-backed insurgent in Syria.

Obama is mulling over the idea of supplying man-portable anti-aircraft systems, also known as MANPADs, to anti-Damascus militants in Syrian, reflecting a policy shift that coincides with his Friday visit to the Persian Gulf Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported Friday, citing an anonymous US official.

According to recent press reports, the Obama administration has expressed interest in new efforts to exert additional pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad and boost the foreign-backed insurgents in the country following major battlefield defeats they have suffered at the hands of Syrian army troops.

Officials then stated the US would send anti-tank rockets and humanitarian aid to the opposition, but noted MANPADs – portable missile-launchers – would not be part of the package, due to fears that they might end up in the hands of the growing number of extremist insurgents in Syria and potentially used to target commercial airliners.

If authorized now, the MANPAD shipments could be made by Saudi Arabia, where Obama has just concluded a visit and a meeting with despotic Saudi ruler King Abdullah.

Obama, together with his Secretary of State John Kerry, met with Abdullah for nearly two hours on Friday, but no decision on weapons shipments is expected to be announced while Obama is still in the Middle East.

Upset by Obama’s refusal to wage a military strike against Syria last year, the Saudis have been pressing the US to authorize the shipment of anti-air systems to the anti-Assad militants since early this year.

According to the AP report, Obama’s likely rethinking of the situation is due to “the greater understanding the US now has about the composition of the Syrian rebels,” presumably referring to the belief that “moderate” rebels have fortified their position against the radical gangs such as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

At the same time, the unnamed official also said Obama is still worried about the consequences of escalating a conflict that’s dragged beyond three years with no clear end in sight.


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