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Advanced Weapons Supplied to Syrian Rebels by US & Saudi were Diverted to Islamic State: Study

The supply of weapons by the US to Syrian opposition groups is considered an “unauthorised transfer” and violation of its agreements with the EU, the report argues.
Supply of weapons

Image Courtesy: Centre for Armament Research

A recent study by London based Centre for Armament Research (CAR) said that the ‘unauthorised transfer’ of US and Saudi Arabia supplied weapons by Syrian opposition forces boosted the fighting capacity of Islamic States. The deliveries were initially intended to support ‘moderate’ rebel groups but resulted in arming the Daesh terrorists. These were mostly advanced weapons, including Anti Tank Guided Weapons and rockets with tandem warheads, and the acquisition of these significantly augmented the anti-armour capability of Islamic State.

These systems continue to pose a significant threat to the coalition of troops arrayed against IS forces,” the study adds.

The supply of weapons by the US to Syrian opposition groups is considered an “unauthorised transfer” and violation of its agreements with the EU, the report argues.

A large number of advanced weapons in the arsenal of Islamic State terrorists were made in the EU and delivered by the US, the study said. “The United States and Saudi Arabia supplied most of this material without authorisation, apparently to Syrian opposition forces.”

The IS forces are known to have been armed largely with Soviet-era small arms weapons, mostly with AK pattern weapons. The study points out that more than half of the weapons that were investigated were manufactured in Russia and China. But the majority of these were produced between 1960 and 1989 – prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Daesh militants captured the Iraqi army weapon stockpiles in Fallujah and other cities following the declaration of the IS caliphate in June 2014. As Iraqi soldiers fled, jihadists raided arms depots and bolstered their stockpiles from the weapons provided to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980-1988.

Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, former Warsaw Pact states – which are now members of the EU – manufactured 30 percent of the weapons and 20 percent of the ammunition recovered by CAR. These countries produced the majority of the weapons documented in Iraq.

The investigations note that IS forces captured much of its military materiel from Iraqi and Syrian government forces,” the report says. “This trend is plausibly the result of transfers made during the Cold War and of surplus transfers immediately after its end,” the report says.

The reports note that only 2 percent of the weapons documented were manufactured in the current decade ( 2010-17) and 60 percent were manufactured before the 1990s. On the other hand, the ammunition data shows a different pattern- 15 percent of the ammunition were produced in the 2010-17 period. The reports also note that deliberate attempts have been made by supplier parties to conceal the weapons’ provenance by removing or scratching off the manufacturer or batch information.

More advanced weapons- mostly anti-armour weapons- were purchased from the European Union countries by the United States and Saudi Arabia and then supplied to Syrian opposition forces. These opposition groups were then either defeated by or collaborated with IS forces battling to overthrow the Syrian government.

The entire process - manufacturing of the weapons in the EU, to supply to the Syrian rebels, to transfer to IS forces in Iraq- “occurred within two months of the weapon’s dispatch from the factory,” the report adds.

The investigation- from July 2014 to November 2017- was funded by the European Union. Titled “Weapons of the Islamic State,” the report claims to be “unquestionably the most comprehensive, verified study of the group’s weapons to date.”

The study further adds to the array of evidence, pointing towards the role of the US and its allies in fuelling the Syrian conflict by the US and its allies, according to reports. The US supplied the EU-made advanced weapons to Syrian opposition groups, which the West calls as ‘moderate rebels’, under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

A July 2017 study by the pro-opposition Century Foundation called it a “weapons farm for larger Islamist and jihadist factions, including Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate.” Saudi Arabia, for its part, has funded and supplied logistics jihadist groups Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham”

The investigation concludes that the weapons supplied to opposition groups “significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to [Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)] forces in numbers far beyond those that would have been available to the group through battlefield capture alone.”

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