Russia’s highest ranking military leader accused Syrian rebels of using U.S.-made, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, as the BBC reports:
“We have reliable information that Syrian militants have foreign portable anti-aircraft missile systems, including those made in the USA… it should be cleared up who delivered them,” Gen Makarov told journalists in Russia.There have been earlier unconfirmed reports of the Syrian opposition having shoulder-mounted missiles, but the West has been reluctant to openly arm the rebels.
Hours after the Russian general made his claim, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta denied having any knowledge of the U.S. supplying Syrian rebels with shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, including Stingers. Reuters reports:
Asked about reports that the rebels had such weapons, Panetta declined comment, saying: “I don’t know what the reports are – and I certainly don’t know of us providing any such missiles in that area.”
It’s hard to tell who’s right here. Russian reports about American foreign policy are not typically the most reliable. On the other hand, America would certainly like to see a decisive turning point in favor of the Free Syrian Army before implementing a grand policy in Syria. This doesn’t necessarily meant that it is secretly supplying arms to the Syrian rebels to force such a turning point, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, and it’s also quite possible that they would deny any knowledge that it was happening. If so, let’s hope they’re sending them to the right people.