Gulf guns to the Free Syrian Army (FSA)…the frightening thought of Chemical Weapons and Western intervention…
Istanbul- Last Wednesday, the Independent published a story I did on Gulf countries-including Saudi Arabia and Qatar-arming rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Since the start of the uprising, anti-regime activists have only smuggled small quantities of weapons, purchased on the black market, from Hatay in southern Turkey into Syria’s Idlib province.
However, three weeks ago, members of the loose assortment of rebel groups that comprises the FSA said they had received multiple shipments of arms including Kalashnikov assault rifles, BKC machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weaponry from Gulf countries and that Turkey was assisting in the delivery of the weapons.
The rebels first made the claims to me a few weeks ago and a Ankara-based Western diplomat more recently confirmed the news. The weapons will not turn the tide of the conflict against the Syrian regime, but they do provide a moral boost to the FSA groups that received them and appear to have contributed to an increased number of successful attacks. The delivery of the weapons (at least three shipments were made through Turkey) also mean that the conflict in Syria can be considered a proxy-war between Gulf countries+the US+Turkey vs. Russia and Iran. This is frightening. Especially given the regime’s vast stockpiles of chemical weapons.These could fall into the hands of extremists. Or the regime might deploy the weapons as its demise approaches. It appears more and more likely that the West will be forced to directly intervene, though the US is waiting for the most opportune moment to do so. And at the same time hoping it will not have to. Even if Assad falls in the next 12-months, or perhaps even by the end of the year, Syria will be chaos for years to come.
I haven’t been a very good blogger this year, but read a dispatch from my last trip to the Turkey-Syria border published in Foreign Policy:
BOHSIN, Turkey — The dull thud of the Syrian military shells woke me in the Bohsin refuge camp at about three in the morning
Across the tent, Wasim Sabbagh, a Syrian Christian from the province of Homs, did not stir. But across the Orontes River, which separates Turkey and Syria, people were dying as we slept, in numbers impossible to verify because the Syrian government denies independent observers access to the country. The United Nations saysthat “well over” 7,500 people have lost their lives during the yearlong uprising.
Life in the refugee camp — a life spent hoping President Bashar al-Assad will soon fall — has become routine. Sabbagh’s friends compare the different brands of tuna provided to them by Turkish aid workers, watch the pigeons one man keeps in a homemade cage, and, of course, follow the latest horrible news from inside Syria.