In comments today to the media, Russian Deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov warned the United States against reported plans to begin arming Syrian rebel factions with shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles, saying such a move would be “absolutely counterproductive,” and that the rebels the US are backing are liable to do the same thing that al-Qaeda did to America on 9/11.
The US has been talking sending a new influx of weapons into Syria, primarily to spite Russia for its attacks on Aleppo. The US has not officially sent anti-aircraft missiles to the rebels yet, but the CIA is believed to have facilitated such shipments paid for by Saudi Arabia.
There are several obvious risks with this strategy, as arms sent to “vetted” rebels tend to get spread around to their unvetted allies, and even to enemy factions. With US-led coalition warplanes also attacking Syria, such missiles are just as likely to get used against them as against the Russians.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was particularly critical of the US rhetoric since last week’s ceasefire collapse, saying the US had reneged on its promise to separate the Nusra Front from its “moderate” rebel factions, which was supposed to be what the week-long ceasefire was facilitating, leading to joint US-Russia strikes. The rebels never separated, and the US never discussed the joint strikes with Russia, instead just condemning Russia when, after the ceasefire crumbled, they went back to unilateral attacks on the al-Qaeda-linked militants.