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In the Media

article imageOp-Ed: How well armed are the Syrian rebels?

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By Paul Iddon
Jul 18, 2012 in Politics
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The Free Syrian Army spokesman Colonel Kassem Saadeddine has recently proclaimed victory to be nigh stating that his forces only have light weapons, but "it's enough."
"Expect surprises," Saadeddine said before backing up the recent claim that his comrades downed a Syrian army helicopter over Qaboon.
In a manner cynically reminiscent to how Saddam Hussein crushed the major Kurdish and Shia uprisings against his rule in 1991 the Syrian regime has recently began to regularly use helicopter gunships and other heavy weaponry to terrorize and ultimately crush the rebels -- who are obviously much more lightly armed and have to rely on launching guerilla attacks against the Syrian Army in urban environments.
These gunships are heavily armoured and approximately fifty are rumoured to be operational, however since the uprising started one would be skeptical when quoting that figure. That being said Russia has not been imposing arms sanctions on Damascus so one can assume that the Syrians are still receiving spare parts to keep their Mi-24 Hind gunship fleet operational.
An example of an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship. (Note: These are the newer Mi-35 variants).
U.S. Air Force
An example of an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship. (Note: These are the newer Mi-35 variants).
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The question then arises, have the Syrian rebels in their possession more highly advanced weapons to give them the technological edge over their more heavily armed opponents?
A recent report from Sky News states that Syrian rebels have claimed to have shot down an army helicopter over the district of Qaboun in Damascus as part of their new 'Damascus Volcano' offensive against the regime. A senior rebel was quoted as explaining that "helicopters are flying at low altitude. It's easy to target them using anti-aircraft weapons."
An RPG-7 (rocket propelled grenade).
Michal Maňas
An RPG-7 (rocket propelled grenade).
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When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan back in 1979 the Central Intelligence Agency began Operation Cyclone to supply the Afghan rebels in their guerilla campaigns against the Soviets. Initially they did this by supplying them with Soviet bloc made weaponry to give the impression that the weaponry the rebels possessed were procured off neither dead Soviet soldiers or from other sources. However later in the war the Americans made no secret of their support for these rebels by providing them with American made FIM-92 Stinger portable ground-to-air missiles which they used to shoot down the Soviet Hind gunships.
It is no secret that the U.S. at present is giving Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- as are the Turks by allowing their frontier with Syria to be used to funnel arms to the opposition in Syria -- a free hand in arming the rebels, Damascus knows this too, so there is a possibility that like in the latter stages of the Soviet war in Afghanistan the rebels may be receiving more hi-tech weaponry to enable them to take out tanks and shoot down helicopters.
File photo: An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube  allegedly shows a tank from forces...
Screengrab
File photo: An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube, allegedly shows a tank from forces loyal to the Syrian government being hit by a projectile in the town of Izaz, on the Turkish-Syrian border
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Also, take the recent attack on a tank convoy last week.
The video allegedly shows the FSA lashing out and attacking a tank convoy near Izaz, a town on the Turkish-Syrian border. Was this attack carried out with regular RPG-7's, simple weapons which are ubiquitous among the armed opposition groups in Syria? Or, was the attack carried out with more advanced anti-tank weaponry, supplied maybe by the rebels Saudi patrons?
It is important not to jump to conclusions or make hollow assumptions based on the limited available facts of the matter, but there is plenty of room to speculate regarding what we know and have learned from the past.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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More about syrian rebels, Syrian civil war, Syria
 
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