CIA helping Turkey, Saudi Arabia, smuggle weapons into Syria: sources

Turkish-Syrian border
A growing team of United States Central Intelligence Agency personnel is currently in Turkey overseeing a multinational effort to secretly deliver weapons to Syrian anti-government rebels, according to The New York Times. Quoting “American officials and Arab intelligence officers”, the paper said last week that the weapons are being smuggled into Syria primarily through the Turkish border. The financial cost of smuggling into Syria such weapons as antitank explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic rifles, has so far been covered by the governments of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to the article. The funds are partly required to bribe members of what The Times describes as “a shadowy network of intermediaries”, which reportedly includes forces loyal to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The latter is a Sunni group that is widely viewed as the most dominant of the anti-government factions that make up the rebel side in the ongoing Syrian uprising. The paper quotes an “Arab intelligence official”, who says the CIA contingent in Turkey “is trying to make new sources and recruit people” along the porous Turkish-Syrian border. But its presence in the volatile region, which has been constant for “several weeks”, according to The Times, is also aimed at keeping the smuggled weapons out of the reach of Syrian anti-government forces that are allied with militant Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. The article notes that American support for the Syrian rebels has been minimal, when compared with that in Libya in 2011, mostly because of staunch Russian support for the government forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Moreover, even though the administration of US President Barack Obama has considered sending CIA officers into Syria to “help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service”, it has apparently held back due to Moscow’s intervention in the Arab country, and “no decisions have been made”. The Times says that it contacted the White House, the Department of State, and the CIA, but none would comment on “ongoing intelligence operations”. Wired magazine asked the US Department of Defense whether US weapons are being funneled to the hands of Syrian rebels, and was told by Pentagon, spokesman George Little that the DoD is “not providing lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition”. However, he refused to deny that other US government agencies might be.

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