US begins sending arms for Syrian rebels

Washington, June 28 (IANS) The central intelligence agency (CIA) has started sending weapons to Jordan with a view to arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month, a US media report said.

The CIA is expected to spend up to three weeks bringing light arms and possibly anti-tank missiles to Jordan, reported Wall Street Journal citing diplomats and US officials briefed on the plans Thursday.

“The agency plans to spend roughly two weeks more vetting an initial group of fighters and making sure they know how to use the weapons that they are given, clearing the way for the first U.S.- armed rebels to enter the fight,” reported Xinhua citing the US daily.

It said the shipments, training plus a parallel push to mobilise arms deliveries from European and Arab allies are being timed to allow “a concerted push” by the rebels starting by early August, as the rebels are losing ground in their fighting against the government forces.

US President Barack Obama authorised the shipment of small arms and ammunition to the Syrian rebels in a new covert plan disclosed earlier this month, in a break with his long-held non-lethal-aid-only policy.

Washington concluded June 13 that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, against the rebels, resulting in up to 150 deaths.

The act was observed as crossing a “red line” set by Obama in his handling of the Syrian conflict that has claimed more than 93,000 lives.

“Talks are under way with other countries, including France, about pre-positioning European-procured weapons in Jordan,” the Wall Street reported. “Saudi Arabia is expected to provide shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, known as Manpads, to a small number of handpicked fighters, as few as 20 at first.”

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