WASHINGTON, March 25 (RIA Novosti) – The United States has been assisting Turkey and Arab nations boost their arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in recent months as the armed opposition attempts to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, The New York Times reported Monday.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has helped Arab governments—including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan—in their efforts to procure weapons to arm the Syrian rebels with, and US intelligence officers have also assisted in vetting the insurgents designated to receive the shipments, the newspaper reported.
Deliveries of these weapons have increased precipitously in recent months, the Times reported, citing air traffic data and anonymous sources in the US government, the Syrian rebel leadership and Turkish opposition politicians.
The United States has described the government under Assad as “discredited” and has thrown its political support behind rebels fighting to topple him. But Washington has insisted that it is providing only nonlethal aid to the insurgents, while conceding that some of its allies have opted to deliver weapons to the rebels seeking Assad’s ouster.
Russia, meanwhile, has repeatedly warned against outside intervention aimed at “regime change” in Syria, insisting that its support is not for the Assad regime but for international law and urging caution in dealing with rebel groups whose composition and aims are uncertain.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news briefing Monday that he was aware of the Times report but declined to comment on it.
Hugh Griffiths, who monitors illegal arms transfers for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, was quoted by the Times as saying that the “intensity and frequency of these flights” delivering arms are “suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”
“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons (3,175 metric tons) of military equipment,” Griffiths said, according to the report.
A majority of the cargo flights have occurred since November, the Times reported.