The United States is determined not to let Aleppo fall and has decided to deluge the tattered city with Manpads, shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles, this according to a source who has contacts within the rebel forces ranks.
Last week, anonymous US officials reported that due to the intense bombardment of Aleppo, the Obama administration seriously contemplated lifting the ban of Qatar and Saudi Arabia arming rebels with Manpads; a source confirmed that the US has in fact allowed the two Gulf states to begin shipments with the source being quoted as saying,
“The US confirmed the green light to begin sending them to rebels through supply routes still open through Jordan and Turkey. Rebels are being told only to target Syrian helicopters, not Russian – but it’s not clear they will abide by this. The US won’t let Aleppo fall. We can expect to see Syrian helicopters falling from the sky within weeks.”
The source quickly noted that this move could easily ire Iran, ally of Syria, and cause even more upheaval in the region if Iran decides to ship similar missiles to the Shia Houthi Ansarullah fighters in Yemen (this could add insult to injury considering US-made missiles fell into the hands of the Houthis back in February).
The US-Russia brokered ceasefire has done nothing to quell the intense fighting in Aleppo and in the last few days, civilians have suffered the highest casualty count, this includes stopping any type of aid relief from getting to them; this as Syrian helicopters continue to hammer Aleppo with barrel bombs, while Syrian and Russian jets drop incendiary devices on these civilian areas.
An anonymous US official stated that the US kept these Manpads out of Syria and instead opted for localized training of rebel fighters coupled with arming them with infantry weapons, but this tactic clearly isn’t working and the fear is that the Gulf allies and Turkey will no longer follow the US-led offensive and will “turn a blind eye” to those who are wealthy enough to arm the opposition with these Manpads. A second anonymous US official said,
“The Saudis have always thought that the way to get the Russians to back off is what worked in Afghanistan 30 years ago – negating their air power by giving Manpads to the mujahideen. So far, we’ve been able to convince them that the risks of that are much higher today because we’re not dealing with a Soviet Union in retreat, but a Russian leader who’s bent on rebuilding Russian power and less likely to flinch.”
The State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, commented on negotiations versus arming the rebels and stressed that Washington did not want to see a flood of weapons enter the embattled region,
“What you would have as a result is just an escalation in what is already horrific fighting. Things could go from bad to much worse.”
Another US official countered Mr. Toner’s remarks with,
“The opposition has a right to defend itself and they will not be left defenseless in the face of this indiscriminate bombardment. We don’t believe they will take lightly to the kind of outrages we’ve seen in the last 72 hours.”