National Security Brief: U.S. Arms Trickle To Syrian Rebels, May Be Funneled To Pro-Assad Groups

Since Obama administration officials announced that the United States would start sending arms to vetted Syrian rebels, those shipments have reportedly been slow-going, as, according to a USA Today report, “rebel leaders say they have seen little or no evidence of U.S.-supplied arms entering the country and momentum on the ground is shifting toward the regime.”

While arming the Syrian rebels has received widespread bipartisan support from members of Congress, members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees are urging the White House to delay sending the weapons fearing “the weapons will end up in the hands of Islamist militants, and will not be enough to tip the balance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad anyway,” Reuters reported on Tuesday.

And perhaps they’re right. USA Today also reported on Thursday that American arms are apparently ending up in the hands of pro-Assad militias, including the Iranian backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah:

Analysts say it’s unclear if the weapons were captured, stolen or bought on the black market in Syria, Turkey, Iraq or Libya. Propaganda photographs from Shiite militias posted on dozens of websites and Facebook pages show the weapons were acquired in new condition, said Phillip Smyth, an analyst for, a site affiliated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


Meanwhile, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) said on Wednesday that he wants the Obama administration to begin planning with U.S. allies to attack Assad’s forces. “Increased military pressure on Assad is the only way to achieve a negotiated settlement in Syria, which in turn is needed to restore stability to a region that certainly doesn’t need any more instability,” he said.

In other news:

  • Some semblance of normality is beginning to reappear in Egypt. Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street, leading to speculation that “legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.” The New York Times has the story.
  • Reuters reports: An exiled opposition group said on Thursday it had obtained information about a secret underground nuclear site under construction in Iran, without specifying what kind of atomic activity it believed would be carried out there.