A follow-up to the last compendium of not-very-secret manoeuvrings in and around Syria, in response to a flurry of new reports. Suggested additions welcome.
Sunday Times, Dec 9:
The United States is launching a covert operation to send weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time as it ramps up military efforts to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles will be sent through friendly Middle Eastern countries already supplying the rebels, according to well-placed diplomatic sources. The Americans have bought some of the weapons from the stockpiles of Muammar Gadaffi, the Libyan dictator killed last year. They include SA-7 missiles, which can be used to shoot down aircraft.
US State Department officials are in regular contact with rebel field commanders, talking to them on Skype for hours every day. President Barack Obama authorised 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. The US will send in more advisers to help with tactics and manage weapons supplies. British advisers are also expected to be sent. America and Britain are already training Jordanian and Turkish advisers to support the rebels.
Sunday Times, Dec 9:
Israeli special forces are operating in Syria as spotters to track the regime’s stocks of chemical and biological weapons. The cross-border operation is part of a secret war to trail Syria’s non-conventional armaments and sabotage their development … “For years we’ve known the exact location of Syria’s chemical and biological munitions,” an Israeli source said, referring to the country’s spy satellites and drones. “But in the past week we’ve got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations.”
NYT, Dec 7:
Military commanders of the main Free Syrian Army units from all over Syria agreed Friday to a unified command structure … Rebel commanders said that three representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency — one from headquarters, one from Turkey and another from Jordan — attended their discussions here but did not comment.
Guardian, Dec 7:
Large sums of cash have been delivered by French government proxies across the Turkish border to rebel commanders in the past month, diplomatic sources have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against loyalist forces … One such group, Liwa al-Tawhid, an 8,000-strong militia that fights under the Free Syria Army banner, said it had been able to buy ammunition for the first time since late in the summer, a development that would help it resume military operations without the support of implacable jihadi organisations, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which is now playing a lead role in northern Syria.
Haaretz quoting Le Figaro, Dec 6:
The French agents had held face-to-face talks with a Free Syrian Army leader “in the area between Damascus and Lebanon,” the paper quoted an unnamed leader of the Syrian opposition as saying … The source was also quoted as saying that U.S. and British agents had also held meetings on Syrian soil with rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime.
NYT, Dec 5:
The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants.