by Geoffrey Ingersoll and Michael Kelley
The Obama administration has decided to launch a covert operation to send heavy weapons to Syrian rebels, Christina Lamb of The Sunday Times of London reports.
But that covert operation may have already taken place.
Diplomatic sources told the Sunday Times that the U.S. “bought weapons from the stockpiles of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.”
The heavy arms include mortars, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and the controversial anti-aircraft heat-seeking SA-7 missiles, which are integral to countering Bashar Al-Assad’s bombing campaign.
The previously hidden CIA operation in Benghazi involved finding and repurchasing heavy weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, and in October we reported evidence indicating that U.S. agents — particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens — were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist Syrian rebels.
From the Times report:
President Barack Obama authorized clandestine CIA support earlier this year and both the US and Britain have had special forces and intelligence officers on the ground for some time. They have helped with logistics and communications, but until now have refused to arm the Free Syrian Army.
There have been several possible SA-7 spottings in Syria dating as far back as early summer 2012, and there are indications that at least some of Gaddafi’s 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles were shipped before now.
On Sept. 6 a Libyan ship carrying 400 tons of weapons for Syrian rebels docked in southern Turkey. The ship’s captain was “a Libyan from Benghazi” who worked for the new Libyan government. The man who organized that shipment, Tripoli Military Council head Abdelhakim Belhadj, worked directly with Stevens during the Libyan revolution.
Stevens’ last meeting on Sept. 11 was with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi “to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.”
Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that the State Department presence in Benghazi “provided diplomatic cover” for the now-exposed CIA annex. It follows that the “weapons transfer” that Stevens negotiated may have involved sending heavy weapons recovered by the CIA to the revolutionaries in Syria.
The newest report comes days before the U.S. is expected to recognize the newest Syrian coalition — and its Islamic-dominated-command — as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The State Department has also indicated that it will soon name the opposition’s highly effective al-Nusra brigade a “terrorist organization” for its ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
Both of these stipulations, recognition of a unified opposition and creation of distance from extremist groups, are required in order for the Obama administration to openly acknowledge supporting Syrian rebels with weapons and supplies.