Report: CIA aids in funneling arms to Syrian rebels

According to The New York Times, the CIA is helping to vet Syrian rebel groups for arms shipments paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

By , Staff writer

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    This citizen journalism image taken on Monday, June 18, and provided by the Rebels Battalion of Baba Amro, purports to show Syrian rebels holding their weapons as they prepare to fight against Syrian troops, in Homs province.
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• A daily summary of global reports on security issues. (Editor's note: The original headline on this story has been changed to more accurately reflect the CIA's role.)

The Syrian conflict is becoming more intractable as rebels, bolstered by weapons from Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, are turning into a more effective adversary against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

According to a report today by The New York Times, the CIA is helping to funnel the arms to rebel groups, vetting potential recipients to avoid arming Al Qaeda-affiliated groups. The weapons include automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition, and some antitank weapons, according to the report, which cited unnamed American officials and Arab intelligence officials.

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Meanwhile, Russia has been accused of arming Syria, heightening concerns that the conflict could become a proxy war with each side armed by outside powers.

Nearly 100 people were killed across Syria yesterday alone – 35 of them Syrian Army soldiers, showing that rebel forces are becoming a fighting force to rival the actual military, according to data from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited by Agence France-Presse.

The Army has staged an assault on Qusayr, a town outside Homs, after being dealt losses by rebel fighters. Heavy fighting also erupted in Arman Az in Idlib Province after rebels attacked Army barracks. The town of Inkhel in Deraa Province was also shelled.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and its partner Syria Red Crescent are on standby outside Homs today, waiting for a temporary truce so that they can evacuate the wounded from the beleaguered city.

Homs has been under siege for two weeks, but government and rebel forces agreed yesterday to a two-hour pause in fighting to allow the humanitarian groups access to hundreds of civilians who have been caught in the crossfire. The shelling has continued, however, according to several news reports.

The BBC reports that logistics such as how many aid vehicles will be allowed into the city and where the wounded will be taken could also hold up the evacuation process and could take days or weeks to resolve. Hundreds of civilians are believed to have died during the assault on the city.

The Guardian reports that Christians trapped in the city – of which there are about 90 – are particularly vulnerable and they are concerned about being caught between rival Muslim groups, as Christians were in Iraq. There were three separate attempts to evacuate them from Homs, all of which failed. A local priest told the Guardian that he believes they are being kept in the city to use as a bargaining chip

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari said that the government has tried unilateral cease-fires, but that the rebels used the lulls in fighting to gather more arms. He also accused Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey of intentionally undermining the observer mission.

"They are providing weapons, sending in al-Qaeda, giving them haven, allowing them to cross the border with Syria and then run back to neighboring countries, " Mr. Jaafari said, according to The Wall Street Journal. "This is becoming so blatant and flagrant, it is too much."

Indeed, violence appears to be continuing unrestrained since the UN observer mission was suspended last week.  WSJ reports that a UN diplomat said that the observers had taken "direct fire" at least 10 times and were caught in the crossfire of fighting many more times. 

The head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, delivered a sobering assessment of the Syrian conflict yesterday, telling the UN Security Council that "there were no good options" for the UN to bring an end to the fighting, WSJ reports. Deploying peacekeepers was not possible because such a mission needs the Syrian governments' approval, requires more troops, and risks upsetting the opposition for seeming to protect the "status quo," Mr. Ladsous said.

Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the head of the observer mission, said that his campaign could only be restarted if there was a "significant reduction in violence." 

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