US Denies Providing Anti-Aircraft Arms to Rebels
Russian Foreign Ministry officials today warned that US efforts to ease restrictions on arms shipments to Syrian rebels were seen as a “hostile act,” saying in particularly that the provision of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles could directly threaten Russian forces in Syria.
The most recent US military spending deal included provisions which sought to dramatically ease arms shipments to Syrian rebels, including the shoulder-fired “MANPADS.” The State Department, however, insisted that the US is not providing MANPADS to the rebels.
The Obama Administration has long armed rebel factions across Syria, including with things like Tow missiles, but was loathe to provide anti-aircraft missiles, for fear they would end up shooting down either civilian aircraft, or potentially getting in the hands of rebels who might shoot down US planes with them.
President-elect Donald Trump is seen to be severely souring on the arming scheme at any rate, and expected to scrap the plan in favor of focusing US efforts in Syria on fighting against ISIS, as opposed to trying to prop up various rebel factions seeking regime change.
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