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CIA overseeing supply of weapons to Syria rebels
The CIA is supervising fresh weapons consignments from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to Syria’s rebels to help them capitalise on a US bombing offensive that could start next week.
Free Syrian Army co-ordinators in the Gulf say they are in urgent talks with Arab states to secure fresh shipments of anti-tank weapons, surface-to-air missiles and conventional small arms.
With American air cover, they are intent on taking advantage of the first air superiority they have had during the 30-month conflict.
One Syrian opposition representative said: “We are talking to our Arab allies and working on the Syrian border to get this done. This is a one-off opportunity and we have to make it count.”
Security sources in the Gulf confirmed the Saudi plans, which are being co-ordinated with Qatar, Turkey and Jordan and overseen by the CIA.
Washington’s Arab allies, especially Saudi Arabia, were initially dismayed by US President Barack Obama’s unexpected decision to defer to congress last week for approval for the strikes. Riyadh has been pushing for months for US intervention.
However, with congressional approval potentially just days away, the rebels believe that they have a greater opportunity to make gains while the regime’s artillery and air force are suppressed.
The White House authorized the CIA to help arm the rebels in June, but the agency has yet to do so itself, amid concerns that weapons could fall into the wrong hands. However, US agents at forward bases on the borders of Syria have final oversight on most large arms shipments into rebel-held territory.
Saudi Arabia has consistently denied arming the rebels, but Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, its intelligence chief, has been shuttling to Washington for weeks pressing for action. Riyadh has also been urging the Arab League to support military intervention.