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US Wary of Daesh Growing Stronger If Syrian Rebels Receive MANPADs

© AFP 2021 / OMAR HAJ KADOURA rebel fighter fires heavy artillery during clashes with government forces and pro-regime shabiha militiamen in the outskirts of Syria's northwestern Idlib province on September 18, 2015
A rebel fighter fires heavy artillery during clashes with government forces and pro-regime shabiha militiamen in the outskirts of Syria's northwestern Idlib province on September 18, 2015 - Sputnik International
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US officials and lawmakers are said to be concerned that militants fighting in Syria, including Daesh and al-Nusra Front, could gain access to man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) that are capable of bringing down military and civilian aircraft in the war-torn country or neighboring nations.

"It only takes one stray MANPAD to sneak into Turkey and that would be a very bad thing," an unnamed US official told the LA Times.

People walk amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 28, 2016 - Sputnik International
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The White House has repeatedly refused to send these missiles to the rebels it has supported in Syria. But the CIA is rumored to be covertly exploring this option. This prompted 27 lawmakers to urge President Barack Obama not to budge on the issue earlier this week.

After all, Washington has already learned the hard way what could happen to the US-made military equipment supplied to the militants. Last September, the Pentagon confirmed that some of the rebels vetted and trained by the agency transferred their weapons to al-Nusra.

Even if Syrian extremists do not receive MANPADs from the US, they could still buy the shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles on the black market.
The Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, are another possible source. Riyadh has long provided financial assistance, as well as weapons to those trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

"There is definitively concern about it," an unnamed defense official told the Daily Beast. "If [MANPADs] were to be introduced, there is a real worry that [Daesh] would target the coalition and eventually target civilian aircraft."

Two Syrian military aircraft were reportedly downed using anti-aircraft missiles earlier this year. Syrian rebels acquired MANPADs from government stockpiles in the early months of the conflict. Additional missiles were reportedly provided by Qatar.

​In recent weeks, Syrian rebels have increasingly pressed Washington and its allies to send anti-aircraft weapons in case the ceasefire, brokered by Russia and the US, does not hold. Meanwhile, Moscow has made every effort to help the fragile Syrian peace process move forward.

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