Andrew Osborn — Reuters Dec 27, 2016
Russia said on Tuesday that a U.S. decision to ease restrictions on arming Syrian rebels had opened the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, a move it said would directly threaten Russian forces in Syria.
Moscow last year launched a campaign of air strikes in Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad and his forces retake territory lost to rebels, some of whom are supported by the United States.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the policy change easing restrictions on weapons supplies had been set out in a new U.S. defence spending bill and that Moscow regarded the step as a hostile act.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has been sharply critical of Russia’s intervention in Syria, signed the annual defence policy bill into law last week.
“Washington has placed its bets on supplying military aid to anti-government forces who don’t differ than much from blood thirsty head choppers. Now, the possibility of supplying them with weapons, including mobile anti-aircraft complexes, has been written into this new bill,” Zakharova said in a statement.
“In the administration of B. Obama they must understand that any weapons handed over will quickly end up in the hands of jihadists,” she added, saying that perhaps that was what the White House was counting on happening.
The U.S. decision was a direct threat to the Russian air force, to other Russian military personnel, and to Russia’s embassy in Damascus, said Zakharova.
“We therefore view the step as a hostile act.
Zakharova accused the Obama administration of trying to “put a mine” under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump by attempting to get it to continue what she called Washington’s “anti-Russian line.”
The Obama administration has in recent weeks expanded the list of Russians affected by U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
Trump, during his election campaign, said he was keen to try to improve relations with Moscow and spoke positively about President Vladimir Putin’s leadership skills.
A back-and-forth exchange between Trump and Putin over nuclear weapons last week tested the Republican’s promises to improve relations with Russia however.
The Obama administration and U.S. intelligence officials have accused Russia of trying to interfere with the U.S. election by hacking Democratic Party accounts.
“The current occupants of the White House imagined that they could pressure Russia,” said Zakharova. “Let’s hope that those who replace them will be wiser.”
(Additional reporting by Peter Hobson in Moscow and Tom Perry in Beirut; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
New NDAA Provision Would Allow US To Arm Syrian Rebels With Anti-Aircraft Weapons
Jason Ditz — Anti-War.com via Mint Press Dec 16, 2016
It wasn’t widely reported during the debate of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), nor indeed was it mentioned in either the House or Senate versions of the bill, but the NDAA has a provision within it that would allow the US to send shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to rebel factions in Syria.
The provision was slipped into the conference report by Rep. Ted Yoho (R – FL) during the conference to reconcile the House and Senate versions, and would allow such arms shipments so long as Congressional committees approve of the move.
Incredibly, Rep. Yoho had previously successfully put an amendment into the House version which forbade the US from sending any anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels at all. There was no amendment at all in the Senate bill, and Yoho presented the the new version as a “compromise” that would ensure Congress at least had some say on the secret weapons smuggling program.
President-elect Donald Trump is opposed to the ongoing CIA arming of Syrian rebels, and has said he expects to end the program outright when he gets into office. Until he actually does so, however, the NDAA opens the door for such shipments until Trump pro-actively does something to stop such a move.