The US and Saudi Arabia have provided Syria’s Western and Arab-backed militants with American antitank missiles as part of an ongoing campaign to provide the militants with heavy weaponry, according to a new report.
The delivery of the TOW anti-tank guided missiles began in March and is part of a pilot program that could lead to larger flows of sophisticated weaponry, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people briefed on the effort.
Some of the TOWs provided to militants are equipped with a complex, fingerprint-keyed security device that controls who can fire it, said Mustafa Alani, a senior security analyst at the Geneva-based [Persian] Gulf Research Center who has ties with Saudi security officials.
A newly-created militant group called Harakat Hazm said it had received about a dozen BGM-71 TOWs and was being trained on how to operate them. Earlier in April, Israel’s Debkafile website reported that two Syrian militant groups have been supplied with anti-tank missiles.
The Obama administration’s new willingness to arm these militant groups comes after the failure of US-backed peace talks in January and the Syrian government’s recent advances in their battle against the foreign-backed militants.
The White House had previously been reluctant to ship sophisticated weapons to Syria, fearing it could wind up in the hands of groups tied to al-Qaeda.
Foreign-sponsored Takfiri groups have been behind many of deadly bomb attacks targeting both civilians and government institutions across the Arab country over the past three years. A British defense study published last September showed that about 100,000 militants, fragmented into 1,000 groups, were fighting in Syria against its government and people.
Syria has been experiencing unrelenting militancy since March 2011. The Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- are said to be supporting the militants operating inside Syria.