US provision of advanced missiles to Syrian rebel factions once again came into close focus this week, when a faction affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) attacked and destroyed a Russian helicopter trying to rescue pilots from a plane shot down by Turkey.
According to Syrian military officials, however, the US TOW missiles are not the rare sight they once were in the war, and many factions, including those allied with al-Qaeda, are making “intensive” use of the US missiles in northwestern Syria.
TOW missile shipments are seen going through Turkey, with Saudi Arabia subsidizing the program. The US escalated the shipments after Russia began its involvement in the Syrian Civil War, despite insistence that the arms are purely targeted at the Syrian military.
Russia has warned the US the provision of those arms is a “major mistake,” and that those arms are going to inevitably wind up in the hands of terrorist organizations, and not just the “vetted” groups. This has been the case in past US arms shipments, and hardly a terror faction exists in Syria anymore that isn’t awash in US arms.