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A Syrian army armored vehicle moves near the village of Morek in Syria, Oct. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Kots, Komsomolskaya Pravda).

Southern Syria Could Emerge as the Civil War’s Next Flashpoint

Monday, Oct. 12, 2015

The sight of Syrian rebels blowing up Russian-made Syrian army tanks with advanced American missiles, captured in videos uploaded last week to YouTube, has brought a nominally covert CIA program into the spotlight. For all the attention on the Pentagon suspending its failed program to train and equip a Syrian rebel force to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the CIA’s two-year-old program to supply a handful of vetted rebel groups with TOW missiles, with Saudi Arabia and Turkey’s help, has been a surprising success, blunting a recent joint offensive by the Syrian army and newly arrived Russian forces near Hama and Idlib. The videos posted by groups aligned with the loosely defined Free Syrian Army show the TOW missiles skimming over scrubland and dirt roads before blasting into regime tanks.

And more of these weapons are on the way. According to the BBC’s Frank Gardner, citing a Saudi official, last week 500 more TOW missiles were delivered to Free Syrian Army rebels. A Saudi official had earlier told Gardner that the kingdom would increase its arms supplies to three rebel alliances in response to Russia’s intervention in Syria: Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest, a mostly Islamist alliance in northern Syria that notoriously includes Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s branch; the Free Syrian Army, whose definition and role have faded as the war has dragged on; and the Southern Front, a strong but somewhat overlooked alliance in southern Syria, affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, that includes some of the factions covertly armed by the CIA. ...

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