The international community has been reluctant to provide the Syrian rebel factions with anti-aircraft missiles since the rebellion began. Eventually however, they managed to capture some from the Syrian military, and have vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft missiles hiding around the Aleppo area, poised for deployment.
With the regime relying on air power in some of the largest battles in the civil war, the most obvious use of the missiles would be to down warplanes. That’s far from the end of the matter however.
That’s because last week the Free Syrian Army announced that it now considers all civilian aircraft inside Syrian airspace to be “legitimate military targets” and gave all air carriers until September 10, today, to end their flights.
The seriousness of the threat was initially doubted, as the few warplanes the rebels managed to down seem to have been cases of “lucky shots” with machine guns instead of attacks with proper anti-aircraft weaponry. If firing machine guns in the air gives way to lobbing surface-to-air missiles at civilian airliners, this could be a major game-changer for the entire region.