Obama secretly approves top-of-the-line anti-tank arms for Syrian rebels

DEBKAfile – May 22, 2012

UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon said he was “extremely troubled about the risk of an all-out civil war (in Syria) and was concerned about the outbreak of related violence in Lebanon.”

He spoke as dozens of Syrians died in clashes – mostly in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib and the town of Homs – while two people were killed in Beirut in a spillover of Syrian bloodshed.

Sunday, at the NATO summit in Chicago, Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen said firmly that the alliance has “no intention” of taking military action against President Bashar Assad’s regime. But he said nothing about individual NATO members translating their concern about the escalating violence in Syria into military action. Above all, he did not explain why Syrian army heavy T-72 tanks have in recent days started bursting into flames on the open roads.

debkafile’s military sources disclose the cause: The Syrian rebels have received their first “third generation” anti-tank weapons, 9K115-2 Metis-M and Kornet E. They are supplied by Saudi and Qatari intelligence agencies following a secret message from President Barack Obama advising them to up the military stake in the effort to oust Assad.

Saturday, May 19, President Obama said in a speech to the G-8 summit at Camp David that “Bashar al-Assad must leave power.” Listening to him were Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev whose government strongly opposes the bid to topple Assad and is helping him to weather the uprising against his rule.

Medvedev and Chinese leader Hu Jintao both kept silent after Obama spoke. Both would have had intelligence updates relayed to Camp David on the latest turn of events in Syria.

The supply of powerful anti-tank missiles to the Syrian rebels is intended to achieve two purposes:

1. To impede Syrian military tank movements between flashpoints. During the 14-month uprising, there was nothing to stop Syrian tanks criss-crossing the country as back-up for the official crackdown on dissent. But in recent weeks, trucks hauling the T-72 are being blown up before they reach their destinations.
2.  The sight of blazing tanks is intended to undermine army morale and puncture the self-assurance of the security circles surrounding the president.

The anti-tank missiles reaching the rebels through Saudi and Qatari channels are only one facet of the unfolding US plan for the Syrian crisis, our military sources report. Turkish intelligence has been given the green light to arm Syria rebels with IED roadside bombs tailored for the Syrian theater and intensively train the dissidents in their use at Turkish military facilities. This is tantamount to Ankara’s first direct military intervention in Syria.

How will Assad and his backers in Tehran and Moscow handle the upscale of rebel munitions?

According to our sources, the Syrian ruler and his cronies are not shaken in their conviction that even with heavy weapons in play they will suppress the revolt, because the majority of the population is still behind the regime and because the rebels will find it hard to wield the advanced systems, especially by day.

But his Russian and Iranian military and intelligence advisers are growing less sanguine as they watch foreign military intervention expand step by step. They are warning the Syrian ruler that the advanced missiles reaching the rebels represent the most dangerous development his regime has faced to date. They reckon that, after failing to ignite a full-dress unified rebellion inside the main Syrian cities, the West and the Arab states have turned to equipping anti-Assad rebel forces for pursuing sustained guerrilla warfare between the big cities – on the main roads and in rural and mountainous areas.

Russian and Iranian tacticians agree that the Syrian army, like most other regular armies, is not trained or structured for combating guerrilla forces. Adapting it to the new peril would be a long process.

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