The Free Syrian Army has received a shipment of Stinger missiles giving the rebels the ability to shoot down the Syrian helicopters and fixing wing jets targeting rebel positions and civilians, according a report on Al Arabiya News.
Sources cited by Al Arabiya claim the rebels acquired the 14 Stinger missiles through a delivery made along the Turkey and Syrian border. The sources claim the rebels have not yet used the Stingers to include the shoot down of the Syrian MiG-23 on Aug. 13. Syria claims the MiG crash because of mechanical failures.
Certain members of U.S. Congress have urged the Pentagon to intervene in the Civil War that has broken out in Syria following reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military has targeted civilians. U.S. military leaders have warned about the consequences of arming the rebels or intervening with U.S. military forces.
The Pentagon worries that arming the rebels could lead to those weapons finding their way to terrorist groups similar to when the CIA armed Afghan rebels in their war against the Soviet Union. The Al Arabiya claims the U.S. knows about the delivery of the Stingers to the rebels, although the Pentagon has not commented on it.
The man-portable surface-to-air missile systems the Free Syrian Army claims to have acquired would pose a significant threat to Assad’s air force. The Stinger missiles are a relatively easy SAM system to operate. It’s also hard to destroy since it is so small and mobile. Most pilots don’t know a Stinger system is in the area until a missile is fired.
The Al Arabiya suggests the U.S. might have had a hand in organizing this delivery to the Free Syrian Army and suggests it could signal additional “involvement by the U.S. and NATO.”